Nelson calls for Senate investigation into Florida nursing home deaths
Senator Bill Nelson (FL)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today called for a Senate Committee investigation into the deaths of 12 residents at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
In a letter to Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) – the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee – Nelson urged the committee to undertake a “thorough investigation to determine what led to 12 seniors dying at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.”
“It is my understanding that it is the state’s responsibility to certify a nursing home’s compliance with all federal emergency preparedness regulations in order to receive federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” Nelson wrote. “And to receive a state’s certification, current federal regulations require skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities to develop and maintain an adequate emergency plan that is reviewed at least annually by the state.
“Because the certification for a skilled nursing facility is subject to CMS approval, and the Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, I urge the Committee to use its authority to conduct a complete investigation into the State of Florida’s certification of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to determine what led to the death of 12 seniors there in the wake of Hurricane Irma.”
To receive payments from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, a nursing home must be certified by its state health agency. In certifying a nursing home, it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that a nursing home is in compliance with all applicable federal regulations.
Federal regulations require nursing homes to have an emergency plan in place to ensure the health and safety of its residents in the event of an emergency. Federal regulations also require that nursing homes have in place an alternate source of energy to maintain “temperatures to protect resident health and safety.”
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills did not have an alternate source of energy powering its air conditioning unit and, as a result, was unable to maintain temperatures in the wake of Hurricane Irma – which has led to the heat-related deaths of 12 seniors who were in that facility during the storm.
Nelson wants to ensure that there are sufficient protections in place so that seniors in similar facilities are protected during future disasters.
Nelson is asking the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to investigate the state’s certification process of the facility and the emergency preparedness plans at similar facilities.