DEATHS

Tampa Bay Times - - From The Front Page - Times/Her­ald staff writer Steve Bous­quet con­trib­uted to this re­port.

is­sues ex­ac­er­bated by the heat,’’ said Shad­drick Has­ton, CEO of the Florida As­sisted Liv­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents the state’s 3,100 as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties. “They’re look­ing for places that may be able to pro­vide some cool.”

Has­ton said Gov. Rick Scott was aware of the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion fac­ing many op­er­a­tors, who chose to have their res­i­dents shel­ter in place only to face days without power.

Scott fielded des­per­ate calls from mem­bers of Has­ton’s as­so­ci­a­tion — seek­ing gen­er­a­tors and as­sis­tance evac­u­at­ing be­fore the storm, and plead­ing for higher pri­or­ity treat­ment from lo­cal util­i­ties af­ter it passed, he said.

In daily con­fer­ence calls with as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties op­er­a­tors, nurs­ing homes and hos­pi­tal ex­ec­u­tives, Scott gave out his per­sonal cell­phone num­ber, urg­ing peo­ple to call with prob­lems or con­cerns. Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion Sec­re­tary Justin Se­nior, Florida Surgeon Gen­eral Ce­leste Philip and oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion also shared cell­phone num­bers, Has­ton said.

Calls to Scott and oth­ers were routed to AHCA or the De­part­ment of Health “and quickly re­turned,” said Scott spokesman John Tupps. He de­nied al­le­ga­tions Fri­day that the gov­er­nor had failed to prop­erly alert health ad­min­is­tra­tors af­ter re­ceiv­ing three calls from the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills.

Has­ton said the state’s emer­gency man­agers worked through­out the week with mem­bers of his as­so­ci­a­tion, and of­fi­cials at nurs­ing homes to co­or­di­nate the move­ment of por­ta­ble gen­er­a­tors and other cool­ing equip­ment from fa­cil­i­ties that had elec­tric­ity re­stored to those without it.

The goal was to avoid up­root­ing frail res­i­dents to other fa­cil­i­ties, of­ten caus­ing steep health de­clines and what the in­dus­try calls “trans­fer trauma,” he said. “You do more harm than good some­times.”

But, Has­ton ac­knowl­edged, those re­sources didn’t come in time to keep some elders from be­ing evac­u­ated or, in some cases, hos­pi­tal­ized.

“We’ve seen the good, the bad — and we’ve seen the ugly,” he said.

The tragedy in Broward prompted Sen. Gary Farmer, DLight­house Point; Sen. Lau­ren Book, D-Plan­ta­tion; and Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, to call for a Florida De­part­ment of Law En­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Said Book: “We just had a mass ca­su­alty event. Eight in­di­vid­u­als lost their lives. One of those was a woman who got to be 99 years old. I know we can do bet­ter. We have to do bet­ter.”

They also want to change the law for thou­sands of peo­ple still liv­ing in limbo as they wait for power to re­turn at their evac­u­ated homes.

One bill, filed Fri­day af­ter­noon by Book, would re­quire nurs­ing homes and as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties to have “an emer­gency power source” to run air con­di­tion­ers, in ad­di­tion to what the law al­ready re­quires: one that pow­ers life­sav­ing equip­ment like fire alarms and nurs­ing call but­tons.

The bill would re­quire the state AHC to over­see the ef­fort and en­sure com­pli­ance.

The 2006 leg­is­la­tion would have done what Book seeks to do: re­quire the in­dus­try to in­stall and main­tain gen­er­a­tors or other power sources, and pay for them them­selves.

What emerged was a mod­est com­pro­mise bill, spon­sored in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives by then-Rep. Dan Gel­ber, that would have cre­ated a pi­lot pro­gram in which some nurs­ing homes would have been par­tially re­im­bursed, so long as they agreed to ac­cept evac­uees from other homes.

Among nurs­ing homes, 669 had power late Fri­day, 34 were us­ing gen­er­a­tors, 10 were “closed” and 40 re­ported post­storm evac­u­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Florida De­part­ment of Health.

Among as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties, 1,978 were with power, 182 re­ported be­ing “closed,” 193 were us­ing gen­er­a­tors and 177 re­ported evac­u­at­ing res­i­dents af­ter the storm.

“The chal­lenge for nurs­ing homes isn’t get­ting through the storm; it’s af­ter the storm,” said Marty Goetz, CEO of River Gar­den Se­nior Ser­vices, a Gold Star nurs­ing home in Jack­sonville that never lost power.

Be­cause of the trauma and stress trans­fer­ring pa­tients has on their health, evac­u­at­ing is the last resort for most nurs­ing homes, he said.

The in­dus­try, how­ever, isn’t con­vinced the gen­er­a­tors will solve all their prob­lems. The Hol­ly­wood home had a gen­er­a­tor.

“We have old, sick, frail, vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple here,” Goetz said. “It re­ally does re­quire a dif­fer­ent level of re­sponse by the elec­tric com­pa­nies and that needs to come from the state.”

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