TALLAHASSEE, FL (CBSMiami/NSF) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed two bills to nail down requirements for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have backup generators and fuel supplies – this more than six months after residents of a Broward nursing home died after Hurricane Irma.
The bills (HB 7099 and SB 7028), passed this month by the Legislature, ratified rules issued by the Scott administration. The ratified rules replaced emergency rules issued in September following the deaths of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.
Hurricane Irma knocked out the Hollywood nursing home’s air-conditioning system, which led to sweltering conditions.
“What it is going to require is assisted living facilities have backup generator power and you know I am glad the industry was supportive of it,” Scott said. “It is the right thing to do. We have to do everything we can to help patients.”
But is the legislation a cure all? Florida Senator Gary Farmer says no, the devil is in the details.
“If you look at the language in the bill that was signed, it requires them to maintain a power supply,” Farmer said. “Does not require them to have a mechanism installed in the facility. Technically, they cold wheel in portable generators if and when a state of emergency is about to happen.”
The state legislation does require some type of backup, but Farmer says that was going to happen anyway.
“They were already going to be mandated by the federal law. That’s illusionary,” he said.
The emergency rules drew legal challenges, but the more-permanent rules ratified by the Legislature this month were negotiated by the Scott administration and parts of the long-term care industry.
The nursing home rule, for example, requires facilities to have alternative power sources, such as generators, that can keep temperatures at 81 degrees for at least 96 hours.
Areas cooled would have to at least be the equivalent of 30 square feet per resident.
Also, nursing homes would have to keep 72 hours of fuel on site.
Scott signed the bills during an appearance in Lee County.
(The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)