U.S. Nursing Homes Lack Disaster Preparedness

nursing home neglect

Nursing Home’s Failed Disaster Response Resulted in 12 Resident Deaths 

Four former employees at the Florida nursing home plagued with power outages from Hurricane Irma will be held responsible for the 12 residents who died from heat-related injuries and illnesses in 2017. The deceased were all residents at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and ranged in age 57 to 99.

The employees, of which three were nurses and one a facility administrator, failed to do their basic duty to protect life and never dialed 911 for evacuation help. The company responsible for restoring power to the home released a statement that “those customers who have electricity dependent medical needs should call 911 if they are without power and in a life-threatening situation.”

How Did This Happen?

Three days after the air conditioning system was initially lost due to the hurricane a close-by hospital’s emergency room began receiving several dead and seriously ill residents of Holiday Hills. At that time, doctors evacuated all remaining residents from the home. Although the center did have an emergency response plan, it did not include mention of how residents would be kept safe from dangerous temperatures (such as extreme heat) if the home’s power was lost.

During any natural disaster, nursing homes should be prepared, but in the case of Irma and Hollywood Hills, several things went fatally wrong. Because of this, all workers involved are expected to be charged with manslaughter charges. And two of the nurses will be charged with aggravated manslaughter and tampering with or fabricating medical records. The center owned by South Miami’s Larkin Hospital has since been closed and the workers surrendered themselves to authorities on Monday, September 16.

Current Regulation Is Not Enough to Protect Residents Against Disaster Events

After Irma, ranking members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance launched an investigative report in 2018 titled Sheltering in Danger including 18 recommendations that should be considered to keep nursing homes better prepared for natural disasters. Even with the outcry created by the report and pleas from family members who lost a loved one at Hollywood Hills, current Federal regulations still aren’t enough to protect nursing home residents during natural disasters.

Specifically related to Hollywood Hill’s tragic outcome, facilities have yet to be required to have enough emergency power capable of maintaining safe temperatures. Also, the process for establishing power restoration after a natural disaster is still not documented or practiced in more than half of the countries elder care facilities.

Emergency Preparedness Plans Should Be Locked into Place

Our Illinois nursing home attorneys know that many care facilities routinely ignore the safety and needs of those in their charge in the event of an emergency. If you suspect neglect of a loved one in a nursing home due to its lack of emergency preparedness, please contact us now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or complete our online case evaluation form.

Also read: Nursing Home Disaster Response Plan Met With Opposition

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