Nursing homes and assisted living facilities aren’t the only entities who have an issue with Governor Rick Scott’s declaration that they must have generators that can power air-conditioning systems installed by next month.
Sally Bishop, director of Pinellas County’s emergency management department, told state legislators Monday that there is an unintended consequence to Scott’s emergency declaration: health care facilities canceling their agreements with other counties that offer shelter to evacuating facilities.
“We’re finding that the sheltering facilities are canceling those agreements with the evacuating facilities because of their concerns on being able to meet the requirements of the new generator rules,” Bishop told members of the Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
Scott’s emergency rules announced on September 16 gave the nursing homes and assisted living facilities 60 days to install generators. It came just days after eight residents of a Broward County nursing home died after losing air conditioning because of Hurricane Irma. Six more residents later died.
Bishop said she already has a problem in having enough shelters ready to house evacuees when the next hurricane threatens the region. She says new storm surge data with accompanying flood evacuation zones leave her with 170 evacuating facilities and only 125 receiving facilities.
That could lead to evacuees having to go to another county — which is unlikely because there won’t be available transportation, she says.
“I’m very concerned about not only do I have an issue with more evacuating than receiving facilities, but I’m finding that receiving facilities are going to start canceling agreements with evacuating facilities, which really leaves me and all other emergency management entities in the same boat,” Bishop contended.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities estimate it will cost $350,000 to install large enough generators to provide air conditioning for a 120-bed nursing home.
Bishop said that those shared agreements between health care facilities have been going on for more than 30 years.
State Rep. Wengay Newton, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, asked Bishop about reports that some people who were “diaper-dependent” were turned away from shelters with special needs.
Bishop said that there were definitely problems with communications between health care officials and those running the shelters, something that she says has to be addressed going forward.
House Minority Leader Janet Cruz from Tampa said she received complaints from some constituents who were turned away from animal-friendly shelters because they didn’t have shot records of their dogs. Cruz said in comparison, she stayed at a hotel during the storm and saw plenty of people with pets who didn’t get questioned about their medical records.
Bishop said that it’s not good to mix pets who are without proper vaccinations, “or you end up with a lot of sick pets after the fact.” She said that nobody with a pet was turned away from animal shelters in Pinellas, but it varied from county to county.
“I think there was a disconnect,” Cruz said, adding that she didn’t want to see that situation happen again.
Officials from the Florida Public Service Commission, Port Tampa Bay and the Florida Petroleum Association, and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also spoke to the delegation about what they went through during the storm and lessons learned from it.
An industry group has filed a legal challenge to Scott’s emergency rule requiring generators for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In the legal challenge, LeadingAge Florida said penalties for failing to comply with the generator requirements could include revoking the licenses of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.