Florida lawmaker files bill after Hurricane Irma nursing home deaths

Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-07 00:17:16-04

It became the tragedy of Hurricane Irma in Florida. A dozen elderly patients fell victim to the sweltering heat of living inside a nursing home without power for days.

Nearly one month after the horrific scene at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills helped expose how nursing homes across the state are not considered priorities for power restoration, Florida Representative (R-Tampa) Shawn Harrison filed a bill Friday morning to change that.

"What might be a priority in one county for hospitals or nursing homes to come back online after a disaster may not be a priority in the next county over," said Representative Harrison.

As a result, Harrison's bill (HB 245) would make it state law that when the power goes out, power companies must respond first to critical facilities including hospitals and nursing homes. Turns out, hospitals also currently don't have any priority status in the state's eyes.

"I was shocked to learn that hospitals didn't have priority from a sate perspective. We had heard during that Irma that they did. That's something that needs to be addressed from a statewide safety issue," said the lawmaker.

Many of the details of the bill still need to be ironed out including any deadline or time frame power companies would have to restore power to nursing homes and hospitals.  

The bill is among the state's aggressive reaction to what happened at the nursing home in Hollywood Hills and its promise that it never happens in the state again.