In the wake of the tragic situation involving now 11 deaths at a Broward nursing home, after elderly residents were forced to live there with no air conditioning, local Congresswoman Lois Frankel is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would form a panel to examine ways to better serve seniors in future natural disasters.
Frankel tells us the entire Florida delegation in the U.S. House is meeting Thursday to go over the hurricane response in our state. The Democrat and Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami-Dade have filed the “Protecting Seniors During Disasters Act,” to look for ways that seniors and nursing home residents can be better protected during natural disasters.
"As much as anything, this bill is meant to start a conversation...and a focus so that we don't have, for example, a repeat of what happened in Hollywood."
She says folks from FEMA, the CDC and local disaster relief experts would be a part of the committee.
The governor has ordered all nursing homes to have working generators in two months or face fines.
"These facilities that have especially vulnerable patients in them should have generators in times of disaster. They should be able to rent one or they should purchase one, but you want to make sure that the regulation doesn't put half of them out of business."
She's hopeful that her legislation will lead to assistance for facilities that need it in order to meet those regulations.
Frankel heard from a large number of seniors during and after Irma, and she says power outages can have a much greater impact on them.
"Many live by themselves. Many depend on medicine that needs refrigeration. Some live in buildings that their living quarters are on the second, third or even higher floors and the elevators don't work."
Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are filing a similar bipartisan bill in their chamber.
Meanwhile, a roundtable will be held in Delray Beach Thursday, featuring State Representatives Emily Slosberg and Lori Berman, along with other public officials, representatives from the Florida Health Care Association and other agencies to discuss ideas to bring statewide legislation related to better equipping nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the event of future storms.
Staff from Frankel's office will be in attendance.