Finding Out A Nursing Home’s Disaster Plan Is Harder Than It Seems

News of the deaths of at least 14 residents in Hollywood Hills nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma might have potential residents and their families concerned. State law requires that such facilities submit detailed emergency plans to regulators every year. Yet, if you want to see such plans, you might not be able to do so. The Miami Herald reports on nursing home emergency plans and the lack of transparency.

If part of your checklist when deciding on a nursing home for a loved one is to view that home’s emergency plan, you might be left in the dark. Broward County and Palm Beach refused to release the emergency plans. They cited a law designed to protect public spaces from terrorists in denying the Miami Herald access to those plans. Miami-Dade County did release emergency plans for 54 nursing homes, but the plans were so heavily redacted that many details were left unknown.

What little information was available pointed to a troubling reality: nursing homes will likely be ill-prepared the next time a hurricane comes through.

The Hollywood Hills Nursing Home’s emergency plans made clean linen and canned food provisions, but there was nothing in those plans for how to keep residents cool if the air conditioner were to fail. The plans were full of “in-house” self-evaluations giving themselves “excellent” grades, along with sections that had been copied and pasted from previous years.

Of those plans submitted by Miami-Dade, one in four were largely blank. One in three admitted failure to maintain a week’s worth of food rations, a requirement mandated by state law. Twenty-nine nursing homes did not report how long it would take to evacuate all of their residents in the case of an emergency evacuation.

The emergency plans, according to AHCA Deputy Secretary Molly McKinstry, are meant to underscore the importance of such facilities being self-sufficient in the event of an emergency.

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