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Florida’s Nursing Home Generator Requirement & COVID-19 Liability

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Nursing Home Abuse on May 18, 2020

Florida’s hot summers are not something to contend with without electricity. Temperatures can rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and feel even hotter with humidity. Lack of electricity is much more than an inconvenience. For vulnerable parties such as Florida’s large elderly population, a power outage can be deadly. In 2017, 12 residents at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center died after the building lost power from Hurricane Irma. The next year, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring generators at all nursing homes and assisted living centers.

What Is Florida’s Nursing Home Generator Requirement?

Florida passed the Nursing Home Emergency Power Plan to combat senior citizen deaths due to overwhelming heat in power outages – a common issue due to the state’s history of hurricanes. The law requires facilities that care for the elderly to implement backup power sources in case of electricity failures. Nursing homes must purchase and install sufficient generators to ensure ambient temperatures of 80 degrees or less for residents for at least 96 hours in the event of a power loss, such as during a storm.

Nursing homes were originally supposed to implement the new rule within 60 days of the plan going into effect. However, many facilities missed the deadline in June 2018, leading lawmakers to push it to January 2019. As of springtime 2020, many nursing homes in Florida still do not have the necessary generators. Hundreds of nursing homes submitted requests to vary the generator requirement. Some have implemented different solutions instead, while others still have failed to install generators.

Compliance & COVID-19 Nursing Home

Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing generators in nursing home facilities is even more critical for resident safety. The sweltering heat is no longer the only concern should a nursing home lose power. Life-saving ventilators and other medical equipment could also fail, putting residents in severe danger. Although nursing homes in Florida have banned outside visitors for over two months, many COVID-19 cases have still arisen in elderly care facilities. The elderly are the most at risk of life-threatening health complications related to the coronavirus. While some facilities have taken extra precautions against the virus, others have been negligent.

Some nursing homes have failed to take steps such as screening for COVID-19, training staff members on how to handle the virus, canceling group activities and enhancing hygiene protocols. Banning family members from visiting can make it more difficult to spot the signs of nursing home negligence. Family members should try to contact their loved ones regularly via telephone or video chat to check on them. They should also ask the nursing home or assisted living facility what it is doing to protect residents.

How Florida’s Nursing Home Generator Requirements Can Affect COVID-19 Lawsuits

If a family does suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, new legislation might limit its options for legal recourse. Physicians and hospitals in Florida are requesting liability protection from medical malpractice lawsuits related to COVID-19, while nursing homes are seeking similar protections. Luckily for family members, the incoming Senate president, Wilton Simpson, appears hesitant to pass blanket protections. He alluded to a connection between nursing homes failing to comply with the generator requirement and whether the Senate would grant lawsuit protections. He said the state would have “no mercy” on facilities that are not complying with the law.

It is unclear whether the Senate will follow through on granting hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities liability protections for cases related to COVID-19. If you have a loved one in a nursing home in Florida, check in on him or her as often as possible. Be alert for signs of neglect or abuse, such as unusual injuries, worsening illnesses, infections, isolation, depression and anxiety. If you suspect your loved one’s nursing home of negligence or abuse, including issues connected to COVID-19 and/or the generator requirement, contact a nursing home lawyer in Tampa for a free legal consultation. The right lawyer could help your family fight for justice.