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FHCA to Lawmakers: Look Beyond Generators with Nursing Home Disaster Procedure Legislation

TALLAHASSEE, FL (Nov. 9, 2017) – In testimony to the House Select Committee on Hurricane Preparedness, Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) chief lobbyist Bob Asztalos urged lawmakers to look beyond issues related to emergency generators as they consider legislation dealing with nursing home procedures in disasters.

Asztalos told legislators FHCA is committed to implementing the governor’s mandate that nursing homes and assisted living facilities have generator capacity to keep their residents cool and safe during a disaster. He offered a set of recommendations that would strengthen the emergency procedures in nursing centers and ALFs and help them meet the Governor’s goal in a careful, timely manner that ensures the work is done correctly and safely.

In his remarks to the committee, Asztalos vowed, “We stand ready to work together with the Legislature, agencies and the Governor’s office to get this right.” His other comments included:

Complex Needs
“The debate must extend beyond generators and fuel. Nursing homes care for residents whose medical needs are extremely complex – many depend on ventilators, oxygen, dialysis and other life sustaining mechanical support. … We don’t understand how power restoration is prioritized in the state.  I ask that the Legislature formalize the system for determining power restoration, and that priority restoration be given to our centers. “

“We found a disconnect between the local emergency management personnel and the long term care providers. Nursing homes seek to harden in place, and evacuation is a very last resort. The local emergency managers want to evacuate people quickly because they have a much bigger scope than just our facilities. I believe we need to foster open dialogue between the two groups to better coordinate when nursing homes should be evacuated.”

Special Needs Shelters
“Nursing home residents cannot just be loaded on a bus and dropped off at a shelter. They are too frail, many are in wheelchairs and they must travel with their medications, records, staff, and other life-sustaining equipment. If a bus pulls up to a shelter and the seniors on it walk off, they are not from a nursing home. The reality is that, during storms, nursing homes are called upon to take occupants from special need shelters when they are full or when the county is trying to close them after the storm. I believe this process can be better formalized.”

Kristen Knapp, APR
Director of Communications
Florida Health Care Association
kknapp@fhca.org or (850) 701-3530