Facing mounting legal challenges, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration on Wednesday issued a new proposed rule on emergency power requirements for nursing homes.
The proposal addresses many of the concerns voiced by long-term care providers, including about a potential requirement that they have four-day fuel supplies onsite.
Under the new proposed rule, providers would be required to have 72 hours of fuel onsite but have the ability to maintain safety systems, critical systems and equipment necessary to maintain safe indoor air temperatures for 96 hours after the loss of electricity during an emergency. The new proposal would set the ambient temperature at 81 degrees and require facilities to have 30 square feet of cooled space for each resident. A previous version required 50 square feet for each resident.
The new rule was published days before the state is set to defend a previous version before Administrative Law Judge Gar Chisenhall. The Florida Senior Living Association and LeadingAge Florida, which represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities, filed challenges to the previous version in December. The governor initially issued the power requirements through an emergency rule following the deaths of eight residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a Broward County nursing home whose air-conditioning system was knocked out by Hurricane Irma.
The state now puts the number of deaths stemming from the incident at 12. The emergency rules were challenged, and Chisenhall in October invalidated them. The Scott administration appealed Chisenhall's decision on the emergency rules to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. Other changes in the newly published rule include allowing nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are located on the same campus to share fuel resources. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior said the rule can help save lives. "This rule will make Florida one of the first states in the nation to require every nursing home to have on-site emergency power to cool a facility, which will allow Floridians to know that their loved ones in nursing homes are safe,” Senior said.