November 02,2018

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Finds Nursing Homes Unprepared for Natural Disasters

New Report Examines Incidents from 2017 Hurricanes in Texas and Florida, Reveals Systematic Shortfalls in Government Rules

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today unveiled a report examining critical safety failures at nursing homes in Texas and Florida during and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The report found that these incidents, which in Florida resulted in the deaths of 12 seniors, were not chance accidents but preventable tragedies that resulted from inadequate regulation and oversight, ineffective planning and communications protocols, and questionable decision-making by facility administrators.

“When a loved one enters a nursing home, their families expect they will be safe and receive quality medical care,” Wyden said. “My investigation found that in too many cases, nursing homes were ill-equipped to keep their residents comfortable and safe in the face of natural disasters, in some cases with fatal consequences. This is a failure of responsible governing from top to bottom. Federal rules must be more robust and clear, while communication and planning among state and local officials and nursing homes must be dramatically improved. Until changes are made, seniors in America’s nursing homes will continue to be at risk when disaster strikes.”

The report, produced by the Finance Committee minority staff, provides one of the most comprehensive reviews to date of the incidents at Texas long-term care facilities during Hurricane Harvey and at Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma. This review puts the incidents in the context of regulatory failures and lapses in communication and planning at every level of government. The report also examines regulations issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) meant to ensure long-term care providers like nursing homes are prepared for emergency conditions. The report finds that these rules are wholly inadequate when it comes to giving nursing homes the direction they need to be prepared in emergency situations.

The report comes as the United States has endured further significant hurricanes in 2018 that have resulted in widespread flooding and power outages similar to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The report offers 18 recommendations for federal, state and local officials to help nursing homes prepare for natural disasters and execute contingency plans effectively when needed.

The full report can be found here.

A summary of the report’s findings and recommendations can be found here.

Appendices from the report can be found on the Finance Committee website here.