A deadly nursing home fire that left 22 residents missing and presumed dead has drawn attention to an important issue. Nursing homes are responsible for the care of vulnerable residents not just on a day-to-day-basis but in an emergency situation as well. Unfortunately, a new report shows many nursing homes are woefully unprepared to provide the necessary care and support in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
Nursing homes that fail to live up to obligations to residents can be held legally liable. Personal injury attorneys in West Palm Beach should be consulted to assist victims of nursing home abuse. David J. Glatthorn helps victims and their families to take action against abusive and neglectful nursing care facilities.
Nursing Homes Not Prepared for Disaster
The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a review of the readiness of nursing homes for disaster. The data review covered 2007 to 2010 and revealed that most nursing homes:
- Had failed to establish reliable transportation contracts to move residents in an emergency.
- Did not have a solid plan in place to collaborate with emergency management in the event of an emergency.
- Did not have plans in place to prevent seniors from developing health problems after a disaster.
- Had not done enough to facilitate contact with long-term care ombudsmen who could provide support to seniors throughout the disaster and its aftermath.
An earlier report focused on Florida nursing homes during hurricane season from 2004 to 2005 also found deficiencies in the services provided to patients in an emergency. The Florida nursing homes were evacuating seniors to buildings that were not adequately equipped to support the nursing care the patients required. For example, seniors were being taken to gyms or churches. The result was that seniors were having their security, feeding and sleeping patterns, and mobility affected adversely during the emergency and in the immediate aftermath. Nursing home staff also faced occupational concerns when trying to provide care to seniors in the inadequate space.
Repeated reports on deficiencies in emergency preparedness are of special concern in the state of Florida, where there are 684 nursing homes with an estimated 83,229 beds. Florida nursing home residents can be affected by floods, hurricanes and tropical storms, with Palm Beach especially having a long history of being hit hard by bad weather.
Much more should be done to protect seniors. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide a checklist for nursing homes, and CMS plans to revise its checklist in light of the new report showing that senior facilities are inadequately prepared for disaster. The checklist advises nursing homes to:
- Develop an emergency plan
- Create a Continuity of Operations (COOP plan) that specifically addresses disasters that could affect the community.
- Analyze the specific vulnerabilities and actions to take for each hazard.
- Collaborate with suppliers and providers.
- Establish decision criteria for when and how to execute the emergency plan.
These are just some of the tips that nursing homes should follow to be prepared. A nursing care facility that fails to take adequate steps could be held legally liable for neglect and negligence if a disaster occurs and a senior is harmed.
Personal injury attorneys in West Palm Beach can help nursing home abuse victims. Contact David J. Glatthorn at 800-990-9394 or visit www.davidglatthornlaw.com to schedule a free consultation.