A disastrous nursing home fire has made headlines in recent weeks, as 22 seniors are missing and presumed dead after the blaze. The fire destroyed an elderly living community and has caused at least 10 confirmed deaths already. Frigid temperatures have complicated the search for the missing seniors.
The devastating fire underscores the importance of having a disaster plan in place. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are simply not prepared to react appropriately in emergencies. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has revealed that most nursing homes are inadequately prepared for disaster and have failed to take steps recommended by experts to keep residents safe.
Nursing homes have an obligation to patients to ensure they are following recommended safety guidelines. These homes are entrusted with the care of vulnerable seniors and can be held responsible for injuries that result from either abuse or neglect. A personal injury lawyer in Denver can help victims or families who suspect a nursing home has failed to live up to its obligations, so call Bell & Pollock today to speak to a legal professional.
Nursing Homes Not Prepared for Disaster
To assess the readiness of senior communities for disasters, data was reviewed from 2007 to 2010. The data demonstrated that nursing homes failed to address several recommended issues that experts identified as essential to disaster preparedness including:
- Establishing reliable transportation contracts.
- Having a plan in place for ready collaboration with emergency management.
- Prevention of resident health problems following a disaster.
- Facilitating contact with long-term care ombudsmen both during and after the disaster so residents can get necessary support.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) has issued guidance checklists that facilities can consult to create an effective emergency-management plan. Completing the checklist items will address these and other lapses in safety procedures.
CMS also plans to revise federal regulations following the report on nursing home preparedness. CMS will be including specific requirements for emergency plans and staff training, and will be updating the State Operations Manual to provide more detailed guidance on nursing home obligations. Model policies and procedures are also being developed for long-term care ombudsmen to make it easier to provide essential support to patients.
The Colorado State legislature could also consider imposing specific requirements on senior homes to prepare for blizzards, fires and other emergencies that could affect senior care facilities within the state. Just last year, Senate Bill 13-111 addressed the issue of reporting elder mistreatment in order to improve safety conditions for seniors. The new law was based on the recommendation of the Abuse Task Force, and intended to address the problem that Colorado was just one of only three states that did not mandate reporting of suspected elder mistreatment.
Since Colorado is actively taking steps to reduce risks for seniors, establishing state guidelines for emergency preparedness would be one more step in the right direction. Nursing home residents and family members who suffer harm because of the negligence of a nursing home when it comes to disaster prep can also pursue a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for damages.
Contact Bell & Pollock at (877) 744-5900 or visit www.bellpollockinjury.com to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Denver.