Alarmed by a loophole in Florida law allowing nursing homes and other medical facilities housing patients for extensive stays to escape requirements for emergency power, state Senator Daphne Campbell (D-Miami) on Wednesday filed legislation designed to beef-up patient protections.
“As we saw first-hand with Hurricane Irma, ignoring the critical importance of maintaining power for air conditioning in Florida’s climate leads to tragic conclusions,” said Senator Campbell. “Blistering heat coupled with high humidity is a recipe for disaster, especially for those in weakened conditions such as the elderly. This bill ensures that no other vulnerable citizen undergoing medical care ever has to suffer a death that was wholly preventable.”
Senate Bill 558 would apply to all medical facilities housing patients overnight, including assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The measure would require these facilities, prior to January 1, 2019, to have an operational generator and fuel supply sufficient to sustain emergency power for a minimum of 4 days/96 hours. The generator must provide enough electricity to maintain day-to-day living conditions throughout the entire facility.
The legislation, which has been filed for the upcoming 2018 legislative session, would take effect immediately upon the governor’s signing of the bill.
Senator Campbell’s measure was filed in response to the recent tragedy in South Florida, where 14 elderly patients died following lengthy exposure to excessive heat after The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost power during Hurricane Irma. There was no operational generator to power the nursing home’s air conditioning during the prolonged power outage, nor was one required under current state law.