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An administrative law judge has blocked Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to force the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities to purchase backup electrical generators and to stockpile fuel. The requirement, which would have taken effect Nov. 15, was imposed after residents of a senior-care facility died in mid-September, following Hurricane Irma, which knocked out the air-conditioning system.
LeadingAge Florida and other nursing-home-industry groups had challenged the rules, saying it would be impossible to meet the requirements by the deadline.
In his decision, Judge Garnett W. Chisenhall Jr. agreed with the industry about the time frame. He also ruled that the state had failed to show that an immediate danger still existed that required a hasty rule change, since the hurricane season was about to end. “The effects of prolonged heat exposure on the elderly have been known for years,” he wrote.
In an email, Scott's spokesman, McKinley Lewis, criticized what he called “a shortsighted ruling against protecting lives and elderly Floridians” and said the governor would appeal.
Senior-care operators in other states are watching how the Florida case plays out.
“Nursing centers are eager to work with lawmakers and regulators to learn from the successes and failures from the response of the recent hurricanes and develop rational responses that make sense and make our residents safer,” Cliff Porter, senior vice president of government relations at the American Health Care Association, an industry group, said in an email.
At least a few states, including California and North Carolina, already require nursing homes to have backup generators on site. Federal Medicare rules require long-term care facilities to have plans for alternative energy sources during a power outage but don’t require them to install generators.