Report: Government falls short on nursing home emergency preparedness

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Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Federal officials have done too little to prepare state and local governments for the evacuation of nursing home residents in the event of another major natural disaster, a pair of high-ranking lawmakers claimed Monday.

Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and John Dingell (D-MI) Monday released a General Accountability Office report that showed that the Department of Homeland Services (DHS) has not implemented previous GAO recommendations.

"GAO's review makes clear that DHS has made little progress in helping state and local first responders prepare for another national disaster - these emergency workers continue to be largely on their own," said Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The report reviews and ranks how well GAO recommendations from July and December 2006 reports have been put into action. Of particular note, DHS has not required state and local grant recipients to plan, train or conduct exercises on the evacuations of "transportation-disadvantaged populations," according to a statement from Kohl and Dingell. Also, the Department of Health and Human Services has not clarified what the federal government's role is in the evacuation of nursing homes in "its hurricane 'playbook,'" the statement added.

"We intend to keep close tabs on the federal agencies to ensure that our national emergency plans leave no one behind," said Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

GAO was expected to post the report to its Web site at http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/repandtest.html.