Following the deaths of 13 skilled nursing residents in Florida due to a power outage following Hurricane Irma, two Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation to prevent those types of deaths — while also using the bills as an opportunity to pursue a “granny cam” law.
Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) and Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) filed the legislation Tuesday in the Florida House and Senate, respectively.
The Florida deaths came when the Hollywood Hills Rehab Center lost power, leading to seniors becoming overheated. The bill calls for public utilities to have “effectively prioritized, in the event of an emergency,” the restoration of “medically essential electric public utility services in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”
The bill defines “medically essential” as “electric-powered equipment that must be operated continuously or as circumstances require … to avoid the loss of life or immediate hospitalization of the customer or another permanent resident at the residential service address.”
Along with the requirements in the bill around senior living facility power sources are stipulations for electronic monitoring of facilities. The bill defines “electronic monitoring device” as “video surveillance cameras installed in the room of a resident” and “audio devices installed in the room of a resident designed to acquire communications or other sounds occurring in the room.”
Under the law, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman would conduct “announced quality-of-care evaluations” of elder care facilities, and would investigate alleged violations, reporting said violations to the Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency would then impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 or $10,000, depending on the subsection violated.
“We have learned that we can and must do better when it comes to patient protection,” Edwards told Sunshine State News. “It was evident to me through personal experiences after Hurricane Irma which was compounded by the tragic losses of life at Hollywood Hills.”
In a statement to Sunshine State News, the Florida Health Care Association called the bill “unwelcome, unseemly, and unhelpful.”
“Our focus is on finding workable solutions that will improve the safety and well-being of the residents under our care,” FHCA spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said. “This includes procedures for backup generators and priority restoration of power. It does not include lining the pockets of trial lawyers at the expense of long term care residents. We will oppose this misguided legislation with the same determination with which we work to develop effective solutions to the real challenges before us.”
Other states, notably New Jersey, have taken aggressive steps to increase the use of cameras in skilled nursing facilities.
To read the full text of the bill, click here.
Written by Jack Silverstein