Florida debating generator requirements for nursing homes
Thursday, November 09, 2017
We have heard quite a bit about the demand for generators since recent hurricanes had a devastating impact on Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida.
Many people may not realize that the average cost of a generator is a deterrent, which is why they are not common household or workplace items. However, the times are changing as people begin to realize how significant of a role generators play in saving lives.
Currently, the state of Florida is debating requirements for nursing homes to have generators and enough fuel to cool buildings for 96 hours. The controversial deaths of 13 nursing home residents at The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Florida, called attention to this need.
Apparently, the privately-owned facility reached out for help as residents suffered through a power outage caused by Hurricane Irma. The fact the facility is across the street from a hospital has initiated a criminal investigation into these deaths, as unnecessary neglect is a major concern here.
In response to news of these deaths, Florida Gov. Rick Scott immediately ordered all nursing homes to install generators by Dec. 1, 2017. Emergency orders are valid for 90 days and are not passed in the legal traditional manner, which can take months or even years. If a state agency orders an emergency rule, there must be an immediate public health or safety danger.
This emergency order has been met with resistance by the group, LeadingAge Florida, which represents more than 100 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
LeadingAge Florida states that Scott’s order "went beyond what's necessary to protect residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities." The charge is that Scott's order deadline comes too fast for facilities, thus creating "an emergency rather than solving one."
At the end of October, in a 66-page ruling, a Florida administrative court order invalidated these emergency rules, and Scott vowed to immediately appeal this decision.
LeadingAge Florida's President, Steve Bahmer, says those he represents are dedicated to working with Scott to outfit facilities with generators. But they are determined to have the Dec. 1 deadline thrown out. Bahmer points out that the process involves many time-consuming steps, including: obtaining permits, updating and installing electrical systems, ordering and paying for the generators, and finding a place to safely store fuel.
In the meantime, the issue will be: Should the state offset generator costs, if legally required? Since people are sensitive to the idea of using taxpayer dollars to improve private facilities' bottom line, there will surely be much debate about who pays for new generators. Right now, the overall cost to update facilities across the state with generators runs around $240 million.
Under emergency rules, those without generators must pay daily fines of $1,000 and risk licensure revocation. Currently, those rules are suspended as we await the outcome of Scott's appeal to the administrative court ruling just weeks away from the original Dec. 1 deadline.
Scott has also ordered two agencies to create permanent rules resembling his emergency ones, but this process can take months. He has requested the Florida Legislature to put the mandate into state law.
Several legislators have already filed bills that would require nursing homes to have generators capable of providing power for four days. We will have to wait and hear the answer to the big question of "Who will pay?" when it comes to Florida nursing home generators.
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