Caring for Nursing Center Residents during a Natural Disaster

Last week we shared the first in a three-part series on the Emergency Preparedness Summit in Tallahassee on Sept 23rd.
The opening panel of the Emergency Preparedness Summit, hosted by LeadingAge Florida and Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), featured nursing home administrators, a consultant to the industry, and a local emergency manager. All of them reflected upon the steps they took before Irma to minimize its impact in their particular areas.
“Preparedness begins at admission,” said Kip Corriveau, Director of Mission at Bon Secours Health System in St. Petersburg. Patients and residents are presented with information from the plan along with their family. (This is a new CMS requirement for long-term care facilities.) Bon Secours hired a consulting firm to review existing preparedness plans and compare them to new CMS requirements.
One of the Bon Secours facilities is Maria Manor Nursing Care Center, from which the staff evacuated 320 residents before the storm. “We were in mandatory evacuation zone A,” said Corriveau, who described an orderly evacuation inland which was the result of a well-exercised preplan.
Robin Bleier of RB Health Partners explained the concept of having an “A” team and a “B” team of staff, organized in advance. The “A” team evacuated with residents in order to maintain care, while the B team stayed behind. It’s important to plan for two evacuation scenarios: if just the facility is evacuated, due to a local problem, then the personal impact on staff is minimal. In the hurricane scenario, however, we must assume that staff, their families, pets, houses, and extended families all will be impacted, and we need to help care for them holistically if we expect them to be able to keep caring for our residents and patients.
Paul Womble, Emergency Manager in Polk County Florida, stressed the importance of specific plans. He relayed an all-to-frequent request put to emergency managers:
     Facility: “We need a generator!”
     Emergency Manager: “How big of a generator do you need?”
     Facility: “Big?”
It’s important to have specifics in your plan. It’s also important to know that emergency management offices do not stock a large supply of generators, “big” or otherwise, and must search their lists of resources to acquire one. It will take anywhere from hours to days, depending on the resource required and the scope of the disaster that is being faced.
Womble also stressed the difference between normal emergency preparedness planning and disaster planning. You need to plan for your own facility’s worst day, but understand that will be impacted if your region (or in the case of Irma or Maria, the entire state or territory) is impacted. Resources that you contracted for, such as evacuation buses, will have also been contracted to other facilities.
(Hint: the earlier you decide to evacuate, the more likely you’ll have resources to do so.)
Categories: Healthcare
Topics: Florida, LTC

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