Thousands of healthcare providers are in full-scale prep mode as the one-year anniversary of a storm that led to the deaths of a dozen residents at one Florida nursing home quickly approaches.
Although skilled nursing leaders are pouring over and updating their policies to make they comply with new regulations that went live in November, gaps still remain, Bloomberg reports.
For example, there have been 1,850 incidents of nursing homes failing to have a written emergency evacuation plan in place between 2011 and this year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Nursing Home Compare website. And there were 3,770 violations of the requirement to inspect power generators weekly and test them monthly.
Eyeing further measures to help the nursing home industry, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill in September that would create an advisory committee that nursing homes could consult regarding facility improvements during natural disasters. Rubio labeled last September’s deaths “horribly unacceptable.”
“It should not take a natural disaster for systematic flaws to come to light,” he told Bloomberg. “As we continue into this year’s hurricane season, I remain committed to making the critical improvements necessary to prevent similar tragedies from happening.”
Officials tell the website that skilled care operators are much more prepared for such disasters than a year ago. In Florida, all nursing homes are technically in compliance with the new rules, according to the American Health Care Association — 165 out of 684 providers have implemented a plan, with the rest requesting extensions.
Senior advocates wondered whether further legislation is needed, though they also noted that nursing homes are operating on “razor thin” margins, with little excess funding for new programs. “I think there should be forced compliance, and if they don’t comply, they should shut them down,” Albert Levin, a personal injury attorney, told Health Care on Bloomberg Law.
“The next step beyond the emergency power would be to have more uniform emergency plan requirements because nobody is really looking over those types of plans,” said attorney Bruce Lamb, the head of Gunster’s healthcare practice in Tampa, FL.