New York Nursing Homes Should Have Comprehensive Evacuation Plans in Place
White Plains, NY (Law Firm Newswire) June 7, 2013 - A thorough evacuation plan should be in place in all nursing homes, but that often is not the case.
As of 2012, at least 1.4 million U.S. seniors are residing in a nursing home, while more than 3 million people have stayed in a nursing home while recovering from surgery or illness. That is according to a report released by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Of the 15,800 nursing homes throughout the country, there is no general consensus on how many of them have safe, reliable emergency, disaster and evacuation plans in place.
The deaths of 70 residents of several Louisiana and Gulf Coast-area nursing homes during the flooding and power issues caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 were investigated by the General Accountability Office (GAO), the federally appointed investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.
The GAO has since called for more stringent emergency plan policies for nursing homes across the country. In 2006, a new law in Louisiana was passed which requires nursing homes in that state to have on hand detailed evacuation plans and requires them to update evacuation and disaster preparedness plans every year, and state-approved evacuation transportation plans.
2012's Superstorm Sandy highlighted the difficulties faced by people who needed to evacuate in New York City and surrounding areas. In light of the deaths in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast and last year's Superstorm, elder care advocates are calling for improved nursing home emergency and evacuation plans and better disaster planning this year.
Questions individuals may want to ask nursing home administrators prior to admittance, or if they have a loved one currently in care, include whether the nursing home has an evacuation plan and disaster protocol in place. If so, when was the plan most recently updated? How often is the staff educated or drilled regarding the plan? Are all shifts aware of the plan? Have all shifts run through a drill of the plan? What is the chain of command for implementing the evacuation plan? How is transportation managed during an emergency? How will transportation providers be secured during an emergency? Is there a backup plan in place, if the transportation providers cannot or will not provide services? How will medical records be transported? Are area first responders aware of the plan? What is the communication plan for family members?
The New York State Department of Health has released an Evacuation Plan document to help nursing homes develop their own emergency plan protocol. It can be found here.
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