Hundreds of Assisted Living Facilities in Florida Still Don’t Meet Post-Irma Requirements

More than a year ago, a new state law went into effect requiring nursing homes and assisted living centers to have emergency power plans, backup generators and enough fuel in place to run those generators for four days.

A News 6 investigation has uncovered modifications to the law that are allowing facilities to keep smaller amounts of fuel onsite in case of an emergency.

According to a spokesperson for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the rules state all facilities must have a plan to acquire a minimum of 96 hours of fuel in the event of an emergency situation, but they do not have to have that much on site.

The rules now state a nursing home must store a minimum of 72 hours of fuel onsite.

As for assisted living facilities, a facility with a licensed capacity of 16 beds or fewer must store 48 hours of fuel on site whereas a facility with a licensed capacity of 17 or more beds must store 72 hours of fuel onsite.

In November 2017 when ACHA and DOEA filed new proposed rules with the Department of State to create permanent nursing home and ALF rules. In December 2017, these rules were sent to the Legislature for ratification. Manderfield states the emergency rules were then extended/renewed while the two agencies awaited ratification by the Legislature, and both rules were ratified by the Legislature and approved by the governor on March 26, 2018 . 

The new emergency power plan law went into effect after Hurricane Irma, when a dozen nursing home residents died in Hollywood Hills.

The nursing home they were staying in lost power for days following the September 2017 storm, creating hot temperatures and dangerous conditions inside the facility.

But despite the urgency presented by then-Gov. Rick Scott, who demanded the creation of safer conditions for the state’s most vulnerable residents, News 6 has found that there are some Central Florida facilities that still do not have backup generators or other crucial power equipment in place, despite having more than a year to do so.

News 6 visited three of the more than 3,000 assisted living facilities currently licensed in the state to see which ones had their emergency power plans and equipment in place. Only one of them did: Alabama Oaks of Winter Park.

In April, News 6 visited Oasis National Assisted Living Facility in Apopka and was shown the facility’s written emergency power plan and new generator that was recently installed in the backyard. But the staff admitted they were still waiting for a transfer switch to go in. Recent calls to check if the transfer switch has been installed have gone unanswered.

That same month, News 6 also checked with the administrator at Excellence Senior Living in Orlando, who confirmed the 185-bed facility was still missing the permanent backup generator administrators had ordered, but has been approved for an extension. So that means even though the generator is not in place, the facility is not violating state law.

According to AHCA, 100% of the state’s nursing homes and almost 98% of the state’s assisted living facilities are in compliance with the new state law, but that just means they submitted an emergency power plan or extension, not that they have all the equipment in place. Some facilities have even received two or more extensions.

According to Florida law, there is no limit regarding variance requests or duration. The agency is evaluating extension requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure appropriate timelines for compliance and safety measures are in place. 

There are currently 248 nursing homes and 2,328 assisted living facilities that have reported fully implemented generators.

The plan implementation and verification at facilities is ongoing, with 284 surveyors making onsite visits and inspections across the state.

As facilities implement their power plan initiatives, their information can be found on FloridaHealthFinder.gov.

According to News 6, Orange County’s Office of Emergency Management and the agency confirms it has approved plans for 82 assisted living facilities in its jurisdiction, and requested 11 ALFs to resubmit their plans. A county spokesperson confirms six ALFs have not submitted plans and the agency has notified AHCA. Orange County Emergency Management personnel are required to approve the emergency power plans, but the submission of approval letter to AHCA is the responsibility of the provider.

It is up to the state to confirm facilities are following their plan and AHCA is ultimately responsible for licensing the facilities. 

So, what can you do to make sure your loved one is safe and that their facility has a plan and proper equipment in place?

  • Visit the facility in person unannounced. 
  • Ask to see the emergency power plan booklet; it should be in an easy-to-access location.
  • Ask to see where the generator and fuel source are stored.
  • Ask staff if they have been trained on the power plans and how to use the equipment.
  • Check the AHCA website for a list of nursing homes in which facilities have been approved for an extension or multiple extensions.

A good facility will have no problem providing family members with their emergency plan and power plan safety measures. If you run across a facility that does, that is a big red flag that something is askew. 

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally obligated to properly care for every patient/resident in their care 24/7. This means that even during a hurricane they must provide appropriate medical care. If the facility is not prepared for severe weather like a hurricane or tropical storm, residents can suffer serious personal injuries and even wrongful death. Any residents or family members of loved ones who have suffered injuries in a nursing home or assisted living facility have the right to take legal action against a facility who acted negligently by not being prepared. Our Florida Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate the nursing home or assisted living facility in question to determine if they are liable for any wrongful actions.

We are happy to help injured nursing home and assisted living facility residents, as well as surviving family members, recover financial compensation to cover damages such as medical expenses, therapy, rehabilitative care, and even wrongful death expenses. We will first launch an investigation into the nursing home or assisted living facility’s policies and practices to determine if negligence caused a resident to suffer harm. Once we conclude our investigation we can possibly take further action through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. 

We offer free consultations and are available around the clock to answer any questions you may have. We make house calls and hospital visits if you are unable to make it into any of our offices. 

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