Nurs­ing homes: Florida night­mare un­likely, but pos­si­ble, in Pitts­burgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front page - By Sean D. Hamill

Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

The deaths of eight nurs­ing home res­i­dents in Florida as a re­sult of power prob­lems af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma has sparked con­ver­sa­tions in the Pitts­burgh re­gion about the pre­pared­ness of fa­cil­i­ties for the el­derly here.

The con­sen­sus among nurs­ing home of­fi­cials is that the hor­rific sit­u­a­tion in Florida is un­likely in Western Penn­syl­va­nia, thanks mainly to our milder weather, but it is not im­pos­si­ble.

If some­thing sim­i­lar did oc­cur here, safety and emer­gency pre­pared­ness of­fi­cers said they are ready with backup plans that would en­sure their res­i­dents are safe.

“We’ve been down in the past for as long as a week [with­out reg­u­lar power] and we had to use our gen­er­a­tors,” said Kevin San­tora, di­rec­tor of res­i­dent ser­vices for Bap­tist Homes, a nurs­ing home in Mt. Le­banon with 180 skilled nurs­ing and per­sonal care beds. “But if we had to evac­u­ate, we have agree­ments with St. Clair and other hos­pi­tals in the area to help us.

knocked out a hospi­tal’s gen­er­a­tor in its base­ment, lead­ing to the deaths of pa­tients there.

“That changed the way a lot of nurs­ing homes and hos­pi­tals lo­cated” gen­er­a­tors, he said.

The sit­u­a­tion this week in Hol­ly­wood, Fla., where eight pa­tients died af­ter a nurs­ing home had a power prob­lem in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Irma that knocked out much of its air-con­di­tion­ing, led to con­ver­sa­tions among nurs­ing home of­fi­cials here.

“It kind of hap­pens nat­u­rally,” Mr. San­tora said. “Right when I walk in the door here, it’s: ‘Hey, did you hear what hap­pened?’”

By co­in­ci­dence, Bap­tist Homes had its monthly safety meet­ing for of­fi­cials from both its Mt. Le­banon fa­cil­ity and Prov­i­dence Point in Scott sched­uled for Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. The Florida tragedy came up, and they ended up go­ing over how they would han­dle a loss of air con­di­tion­ing or a flood that knocked out power.

“We’re about 1,147 feet above sea level here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t flood,” said Mr. San­tora, who has worked for Bap­tist Homes for 17 years. “Here [in Mt. Le­banon a flood] would come up through the sew­ers and we could lose the ground flood. But there are no res­i­dents there. And if it flooded the sec­ond floor? Well, there’d bet­ter be an ark parked out­side.”

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