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Florida nursing homes say they're ready for 2018 hurricane season

Deadly Hurricane Irma incident in South Florida prompted changes

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A nursing home that lost its license after 14 residents died when the facility lost power during Hurricane Irma is trying to get reinstated with the state.

Attorneys brought an expert witness on heat stroke to testify before an administrative judge to help prove staff at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills acted reasonably when responding to the emergency.

Nursing home attorney Jeffery Smith said he thought it was fair to bring in an expert to look at whether staff members acted reasonably.

"I am not aware of any national standards for this population when it comes to prevention, recognition and treatment of heat stroke,” expert witness Dr. Douglas Casa said.

Hoping to prevent a future disaster, new laws require permanent generators be installed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Nursing home representatives said the new generator law, along with additional training and disaster preparedness, have put nursing homes in a better position to protect residents this hurricane season.

“Our facilities have been doing disaster drills, working their emergency preparedness plans, training their staff,” said Kristen Knapp, with the Florida Healthcare Association. "Making sure they have everything they need to be ready for hurricane season.”

Facilities said every storm is different and brings new challenges, but what’s important is learning from the mistakes of the past and improving upon them.

“We're all watching to see what this year's hurricane season is going to bring, but there were a lot of lessons learned, and our priority is always keeping our residents safe,” said Knapp.

AHCA said it will be releasing detailed information on how many nursing homes and ALFs have come into compliance with the new generator rule soon. 

Facilities have until June 1 to do so.

To see whether a facility you or a loved one is living in is in compliance with the new state laws, go to www.floridahealthfinder.gov/facilitylocator.