Congresswoman Wilson Continues Fight to Strengthen Nursing Home Emergency Preparedness
Washington, D.C. – In another initiative to prevent the kind of negligence that led to the deaths of 14 residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson has added important language to the Disaster Recovery Reform Act. The bipartisan legislation, which has been considered and approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, “focuses on improving pre-disaster planning and mitigation to reduce the future loss of life and the rising costs of disasters.”
“The measure requires FEMA to provide much-needed disaster response guidance and assistance to ensure that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are better prioritized and can function or return to functioning status as soon as possible during and after power outages,” the Florida lawmaker said. “This is a top priority for me.” (Click here to watch a video of the congresswoman’s hearing remarks.)
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was unable to power its air conditioning system after Hurricane Irma swept across Florida. Instead of taking patients to the fully powered hospital across the street, the nursing home forced patients, many of them elderly, to endure extreme temperatures. Fourteen people died as a result of the facility’s dereliction of duty to safeguard its patients.
Since the tragedy, which is believed to have been preventable, Congresswoman Wilson has taken several steps to improve nursing home emergency preparedness in her state and across the nation, including a district town hall meeting at which she launched a long-term care emergency response task force to address first response efforts at long-term care facilities and a congressional field hearing in Miami on nursing homes’ emergency preparedness and response to disasters.
In a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Congresswoman Wilson, joined by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), called on the committee to investigate the tragedy at Hollywood Hills so that lawmakers can “understand what led to such a horrific incident and how we can prevent such a tragedy in the future.”
Congresswoman Wilson and 36 House members also have written to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to urge the agencies to “consider additional regulations requiring some nursing homes to possess alternate energy sources that can sustain heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and to maintain a fuel supply that will last for at least seven days. The lawmakers also are calling on the agencies to consider regulations that would encourage state and local municipalities to warehouse additional alternate energy sources they can easily access in the event that their emergency plans fail.
In addition, the Florida Democrat plans to introduce legislation that will require nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that receive federal funding and resources to have a backup generator or other power source to protect residents, particularly senior citizens, from severe weather conditions.
“The 14 Rehabilitation Center residents didn’t have to die,” she says. “We have to do all that we can to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.”