Fines for nursing homes not complying with generator requirement

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - After 14 people died in a nursing home in south Florida following Hurricane Irma, the Governor issued an emergency rule requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities install generators.

Irma nursing home death graphic by MGN.

Fines of $1,000 a day for not complying kicked in Wednesday.

An administrative law judge has thrown out the emergency rule. The Governor is appealing.

It remains in effect, but even if the rule is overturned, lawmakers have filed legislation that would not only require generators, but also prioritize power restoration to elder care facilities.

"Prioritize them appropriately. Make sure that each county includes ALFs [assisted living facilities] and nursing homes in their restoration of power program," said Representative Katie Edwards from Sunrise.

The bill also restores power to the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman, giving the position more authority to investigate facilities.

"And fix those problems before they have a catastrophic result," said Senator Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale.

The Florida Health Care Association opposes the legislation, saying a requirement for facilities to acquire liability insurance means bigger payouts for trial lawyers when something goes wrong.

"The Legislature is already requiring nursing homes to pay their judgement. If they don't pay their judgement, they lose their license. So why do they need liability insurance?" said Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association.

Bill sponsors argue heightened oversight will result in fewer accidents like the one that took the lives of 14 elderly residents, meaning less opportunities for lawsuits.

"If good nursing homes are providing good care, they shouldn't have anything to fear from this legislation," Senator Farmer said.

The bill would require generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities by July of next year, a month after hurricane season begins.