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Questions Raised About Post-Hurricane Nursing Home Care

We recently touched on some concerns that were raised about several nursing homes that were not evacuated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy–even though they were in the “must evacuate” area as a result of their proximity to the ocean. Those in the facility during the storm explain that the rising waters flooded the first floor, took out the back-up generators, and presented a very real safety risk. Employees stated at the time that the decision not to evacuate was made by city officials, who told the caregivers to keep the vulnerable seniors residents in place.

Along the same lines, the New York Times reported recently on serious concerns raised by advocates about the care provided to some nursing home residents at one facility during and after the weather emergency. For example, one facility in Queens, New York saw its first floor underwater after winds knocked out the windows and rising water surged into the area. Many residents were on the upper floors of the facility at the time. When their power went out, they assumed that things would be fine, because the generators would soon kick back on. They didn’t. That is because those generators were engulfed by the water.

All of this led to serious, but predictable problems. As time dragged on without power, the residents became increasingly cold–there was no way to get heat. On top of that, they soon grew hungry. But there was a problem, the kitchen was on the flooded first floor, and there was not enough food stocked away by the owners before the storm hit. Residents also did not have adequate water. That means that they were stuck on the upper floors of the facility in the cold, thirsty and hungry. It was not until hours laters that emergency crews arrived and were able to evacuate the resident to emergency shelters.

But it gets worse.

In the aftermath of the quick evacuation, there was a sense of chaos Residents were transported to different locations, often without their medical records. Most were taken to different locations without a staff member present. All of this has created a nightmare, with many family members of residents having no idea where their loved ones were taken. Even now, nearly two weeks after the hurricane hit, some relatives are still looking for their family members. They are scattered in hospitals, emergency shelters, and other locations without much documentation.

How did this situation arise?

Poor planning. But fingers have been pointed all over the place regarding who is at fault for the planning errors. Public officials and several employees of the facility explain that the home’s owners and operators are at fault for failing to act prudently for a storm that they knew was coming. The nursing home director and administrator allegedly left the area before the storm and did not return until afterward. An investigation by city, state, and federal investigators has already been launched.

At very least, the facility should have taken basic steps to account for the obvious danger presented by the storm. That includes beefing up staff members so that all tasks could be handled properly, ensuring proper food and water, securing adequate medicine, and guaranteeing supplies like flashlights. In addition, medical records should have been prepared so that if an evacuation was required, those records would travel with patient.

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