Government Report Finds Nursing Homes Ill-Prepared for Natural Disasters

May 17, 2012 Posted by in Medical Malpractice

Earlier this month, we reported on the growing number of Florida nursing home residents suffering from abuse and neglect. Reports found that patients are dying from poor care and the staff is often not held accountable. Now, on the heels of those troubling findings, the federal government has found that many nursing homes lack written emergency plans and have inadequately trained employees to support residents in the case of a natural disaster.

In a report released by the Inspector General’s Office of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), the HHS found that due to lack of planning, nursing homes dealt with challenges in the face of disaster due to a lack of collaboration with local emergency management, unreliable transportation contracts, and residents who developed health problems. Family members were often not contacted in a timely manner, and in some cases, patients were temporarily “lost” during the evacuation process.

In the Office of Inspector Genera’s report, researchers analyzed national survey data in order to establish compliance with preparedness regulations of Federal Medicare and Medicaid, and conducted site visits to selected nursing homes that experienced hurricanes, floods, and wildfires from 2007 to 2010. The report found that little improvements have been made since uncovering gaps in the 2006 report that spurred the latest investigation.

The CMS or Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has generated a comprehensive emergency preparedness planning tool for healthcare facilities, although the study of nursing home emergency preparedness “found that most nursing homes did not know about the CMS checklist and those who were aware of it did not use it in developing facility emergency plans.” In fact, the research found that only 13 of 24 selected nursing homes were aware of the checklist and only 7 of the 13 reported using it in developing their emergency plans. The remaining 6 nursing homes reported using guidance from other sources, such as their corporate offices or local emergency managers.

According to Fox News, of the nursing homes inspected, investigators found:

  • None of the homes met the government requirement to have a seven-day supply of drinking water on hand in case the drinking water became unsafe and they had to shelter in place.
  • Only one of the 24 homes had a plan in place to handle the situation if a resident died or became ill during an evacuation.
  • Twenty-two homes had no backup plan if employees were unable to report to work during an emergency.
  • Many of the homes had no plans for transporting food, water, medications, wheelchairs and other equipment during an evacuation.

The HHS made recommendations to revise federal regulations to include specific requirements for emergency plans and training, update the State Operations Manual to provide detailed guidance for survey agencies on nursing home compliance with emergency plans and training, and promote use of the checklists.

Our Treasure Coast nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys encourage Florida facilities to follow the government regulations for keeping residents safe in the case of an emergency. Florida is the fifth top disaster-prone state in the country, and the chances are high that a natural disaster will affect the healthcare facilities caring for our most vulnerable residents.

Contact a Trusted South Florida Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect Attorney

If you suspect that a loved one has been harmed due to abuse or neglect in a Florida nursing home, a South Florida nursing home abuse attorney with more than 36 years of legal experience can evaluate the circumstances of their injuries and advise you on your legal options. I am attorney Philip DeBerard, Injury Lawyer. My legal practice concentrates on representing victims of serious accidents and injuries caused by the negligence of others, including medical malpractice and nursing home neglect and abuse.

Our law firm represents victims of nursing home abuse and neglect across South Florida, including Port St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Stuart, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Vero Beach and Palm Beach, and throughout South Florida and the Treasure Coast. Call 1-800-299-8878 now to speak with a knowledgeable Florida nursing home abuse attorney or fill out our online contact form.

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