Senior care facilities work to comply with new generator laws

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A new rule put in place by Governor Rick Scott requires the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators that can power air conditioning systems.

The deadline to comply was June 1 – the start of hurricane season - but almost half of the state’s providers have applied for an extension.

The law stemmed from the deaths of residents at a Broward County nursing home after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's power, leaving residents in blisteringly hot conditions.

Temperatures reached as high as 99° Fahrenheit in the nursing home.

The new rule would require temperatures to be kept at 81 degrees and below.

Luke Neumann with Palm Garden Healthcare of Tampa says his facility is in compliance with the rule.

Palm Garden installed a new generator last year when the nursing home underwent a renovation.

“We’re going to meet every single deadline, but that’s not to say it’s been easy,” Neumann said. “There are all kinds of zoning requirements we’ve had to weed through, not just at the state level, but at the city level and the county level, to meet both the spirit, the intent, and the letter of the new generator rule.”

The entire process involves drafting a design for the right fit, and weeks of submitting emergency operation plans to local and state offices. A nightmare, Neumann says, for those rushing to comply.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration - the authority on the new guidelines - 523 nursing homes and over 1,000 assisted living facilities have filed for extensions.

“If all of them are going to generator companies right now making plans, then there’s going to be a backlog on the back-end of it. For folks who didn’t get out in front of it, [they] may find it challenging,” he said. “Fortunately, we’re ahead of it.”

For those who aren't, he says the rule can prevent a repeat of last year's tragedy.

“It’s a cautionary tale for any organization that’s entrusted with the care of human lives,” he said.

Though those who requested an extension are considered in compliance, they have until January 1, 2019 to get a generator installed.