Only One in Four Nursing Homes Meet Back-Up Power Demands One Year After Hollywood Tragedy

Within days of extreme heat killing a dozen residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills last year, Gov. Rick Scott gave all nursing homes in the state 60 days to connect air conditioning systems to back-up generators with enough fuel to keep residents in safe temperatures for four days after a storm cuts off power.

"Failure to comply," the governor said, "will result in penalties, including fines of up to $1,000 per day and the possible revocation of a facility’s license."

But it was obvious to anyone who knew anything about how nursing homes and emergency generators operate that a 60-day goal was impossible to meet.

Sure enough, by November 15, 2017, no nursing home could satisfy the requirement.

So it was extended to June 2018.

By then, less than 10 percent had completed the implementation of the emergency backup systems.

Now – one year after the Hollywood Hills tragedy - only one in four nursing homes statewide has met the requirement.

In Broward County, it’s even worse: one in six.

And not one facility has been fined or disciplined in the process.

The state has now extended the deadline until January 1, 2019 to implement their plans.

The Agency for Health Care Administration says it has granted every home an extension because they’ve all claimed construction, equipment or regulatory delays. They’ve also promised to evacuate or have contracts with companies to provide emergency power within 24 hours of a state of emergency being declared in their areas.

"We recognize that this is an aggressive timeline for implementation, and our Agency has seen a lot of progress from the facilities in working to implement these emergency rules," AHCA secretary Justin Senior said in a statement.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said it takes about 38 weeks to get a generator up and running, at an average cost of around $200,000 per nursing home.

"In some cases these are long-term projects that require permitting, zoning and construction," Senior said, adding that despite the delays, "we will stop at nothing to ensure these facilities are appropriately protecting Florida patients."

The homes are required to keep temperatures below 82 degrees for four days without power.

Ralph Marrinson, who owns two nursing homes and three other facilities, said his generators are hooked up and running, though the state is still waiting for a final inspection before declaring them completed.

At his Manor Pines home in Wilton Manors, "We’re fully functional. It will cool everything. It will run everything in the building. So if the power goes down, within three seconds we’re back up 100 percent."

He said he’s spent $2 million total on the projects for all five properties.

"We’re down to some nitty gritty, small details we’ve got to finish," he said, adding "the permitting process took a long time. There's a big learning curve by everybody because nobody has ever required us to do this."

Marrinson said if power had been restored to Hollywood Hills sooner, this all could have been avoided.

The medical examiner ruled all 12 deaths homicides, but no criminal charges have been filed. The case remains under investigation.

The state revoked Hollywood Hills’ license, a decision now under review by an administrative judge.

The home’s owner, Jack Michel, did not respond to a request for comment.

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