Never again

Retirement havens, and the nation, must prepare better for seniors

We published a lovely letter Saturday from American Humane calling on pet owners to prepare their four-legged loved ones for the next disaster.

 

Absolutely.

But do our seniors deserve any less?

Either a lack of planning, execution or communication – or all of these things – may have helped contribute to the tragic deaths of eight seniors in an aircondition-less Florida nursing home baked by post-Irma sunshine.

The preventable deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills this past week didn’t just add unnecessary numbers to Hurricane Irma’s toll – they compounded a natural disaster, which is quite a feat considering it started as a Category 5 hurricane.

Irma didn’t need the help. And we didn’t need the losses – which could continue to mount, as several of the 100-plus patients evacuated from the center were said to be in emergency care late last week.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ordered that the facility remain empty indefinitely, while multiple investigations seek the exact causes of the tragedy.

At least one of the probes, aptly, is a criminal investigation.

Reports say the nursing home was fairly broiling by Tuesday night, after the hurricane swept through Sunday. By Wednesday, the eight had died.

We imagine caring staff members are tormented by it all, and perhaps did all they could under strenuous circumstances. The investigations will ferret that out.

But how could this have happened, even in the wake of a major hurricane? How could so many seniors be stuck in a sweltering facility for so long in 2017 America? It’s unconscionable. And wholly unacceptable.

A new, Katrina-inspired federal rule that “will require that nursing homes have ‘alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures to protect resident health and safety,’” The New York Times reports, won’t go into effect until November.

And even then, the Times says, it may not be specific enough to have required backup airconditioning at the Florida facility.

“If you were in Alaska, and what was required to maintain safe temperatures was a heater, you wouldn’t say you don’t need the heater,” the Times quoted Dr. David Marcozzi, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and former director of a federal health care preparedness program.

By Thursday, over 60 nursing facilities across the state were still without power. This particular facility may be finished: Gov. Scott has stripped its Medicaid eligibility, which could pull the plug on the center.

But the important thing now, other than holding any guilty parties there accountable, is making sure this never happens again. Anywhere in America.

Some in the nursing home industry complain that back-up generators for airconditioning units have to be much more powerful, and are therefore much more expensive than generators available in stores. Others say it can be done, and that Medicaid can help.

This is no time for excuses. Eight seniors, ages 71 to 99, died – not because of a hurricane, but because of a facility’s – or a nation’s – lack of preparation or response.

This has become a watershed moment, particularly for Southern states such as Florida that attract seniors seeking warmth in their golden years.

It’s too easy for them to get too much of a good thing. Retirement havens simply need to do more to plan for extended power outages. Washington should stand prepared to help.

This can never happen again. It’s inhumane.

 

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