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Nursing Homes Get More Leniency In Rule Requiring Generators, AC


Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are getting more leniency with an emergency rule requiring generators for air conditioning. That’s after the deaths of 14 patients at a Hollywood Hills home that lost power during Hurricane Irma, leaving patients in sweltering heat.

Rick Scott's administration responded with an emergency rule, giving nursing homes 60 days to get a generator and enough fuel to run it for four days. The administration said Thursday that if a nursing homes can’t comply because of circumstances out of their control, they can apply for a variance. That would protect them from getting fined for up to 180 days.

Officials say the Agency for Health Care Administration is just being transparent about existing extensions in state law

Molly McKinstry of the Agency for Health Care Administration told lawmakers this week that there were more widespread problems after Irma.

“There were some visits we made to facilities that we stayed there until the residents were evacuated because it was hot and there were people there uncomfortable and there were concerns of decline," McKinstry said.

The agency is moving to make the emergency rule permanent. Lawmakers in Tallahassee started talking about nursing home reforms this week.

Senator Dennis Baxley of Lady Lake said he wants a detailed report on what happened. He said some of the deaths would have occurred naturally.

“Because that makes a difference in policy, what policy you will set," Baxley said. "But I think we need to face the reality that some of these are naturally occurring deaths, and the more time clicks off, the more of them there will be, until eventually everyone in that nursing home will die.”

Baxley apologized for the comments later in the week. See the full statement below:
“I apologize if my comments yesterday did not properly convey the deep respect I have for elder members of our communities and the concern I share regarding the preventable tragedy that occurred in Hollywood.  As a funeral director and ordained elder of my church, I have spent my entire adult life working with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to my faith, working in this field has shown me day in and day out that the life of each and every member of our society is special and worthy of respect. Many of the funeral services we coordinate involve elder members of our community, and I take great pride in the opportunity to ensure their lives are honored and celebrated.  No family member should have to fear that their loved one is suffering in a nursing home, particularly during a natural disaster. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the Legislature takes the appropriate steps to safeguard our seniors from the horrific and inexcusable situation that occurred in Hollywood.”