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Tampa Bay nursing homes pass ‘test’ of generators ahead of Elsa

All long-term care facilities in Florida have generators, though some have been cited with deficiencies.
A puddle floods Buena Vista Dr N following Tropical Storm Elsa, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Dunedin.
A puddle floods Buena Vista Dr N following Tropical Storm Elsa, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Dunedin. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Jul. 7

Nursing homes were ready for power outages and loss of air conditioning as Tropical Storm Elsa barreled toward the Tampa Bay area.

“All our providers now have generators that are ready to go and cool their buildings in case they lose power,” Nick Van Der Linden, spokesperson for LeadingAge Florida, which represents 500 nursing home, long-term care and continuing care communities statewide, said Tuesday.

The storm left more than 26,000 people without power by early Wednesday morning. It’s not known if any nursing homes were among that number.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, over a dozen nursing home residents died of heat exposure after their facility lost air conditioning. The state subsequently passed a law mandating that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a backup generator that can maintain air conditioning during a power outage for up to 96 hours, and prepare a detailed plan for how they will ensure this emergency power source functions properly.

All long-term care facilities in the Tampa Bay area currently have at least one generator, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration’s Generator Status Report, which was last updated Tuesday.

“Every operating long-term care facility in Florida has a generator on site,” said Tiffany Vause, deputy chief of staff for the agency. “That’s the most important thing for people to know.”

Five facilities across the area’s counties currently have “generator deficiencies,” however, a designation that can have varying severity, according to Vause.

“That difference in compliance can range from wanting them to change a minor detail of the emergency management plan, it could mean that they didn’t have quite enough gas on site,” she said. “It could mean so many different things — but most of them minor.”

Consulate Health Care of Brandon, a for-profit nursing home, was found deficient in a number of emergency preparedness requirements during a state health inspection in May, according Florida health agency records.

The nursing home failed to ensure a trained staffer was available during all shifts to be able to transfer power to its generator, failed to have a written plan identifying “cool zones” in the building where that residents and staff could evacuate, failed to have spot coolers onsite and failed to incorporate “infectious control measures into their emergency power plan.”

It’s unclear if these issues were resolved ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa. The state health department was not immediately able to look into specific inspections due to weather response, though Vause noted the timeline in which facilities must report remedies is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Consulate Health Care, the corporation that oversees the facility, did not respond to requests for comment on whether they had resolved these deficiencies.

In contrast, other facilities with generator deficiencies appear to have received the label for more technical violations — Villa La Esperanza II, an assisted living facility in Tampa, failed to meet its emergency power requirements because “no one answered the door or was observed to be in the facility” when state health staffers attempted to conduct an inspection on April 30.

Vause reiterated that the most important thing is that all of these facilities have a working generator onsite — the five facilities with generator deficiencies in Tampa Bay are simultaneously listed as being “in full compliance” on the status report.

“If families are concerned, I would tell them to look up the particular facility on FloridaHealthFinder.gov and to look at what the most recent inspection report says,” she said. “If they still have an issue they can contact the facility directly and ask them, ‘Hey, my mom is there, I just wanted to make sure, what is it that you’re lacking?’ Or, if they’re very concerned and they don’t want to talk to the facility themselves, they can contact our complaint line.”

You can check your long-term care facility’s Generator Status Report here. The Agency for Health Care Administration complaint line can be reached at 1-888-419-3456 or at apps.ahca.myflorida.com/hcfc/.