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What Responsibilities Do Nursing Homes Have to Patients During Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters?

Posted on in Neglect

Illinois nursing home injury attorneysAs this post was being prepared for publication, Hurricane Dorian was making its way from the Florida coast up the eastern seaboard to the Carolinas. Current predictions expect the center of the storm to deflect away from land as it heads northeast, possibly bound for Nova Scotia by the weekend. While many people who live in the predicted path of the storm took or are taking action to keep themselves safe, those who reside in nursing homes are not able to do so. Instead, they must rely on the facility to continue providing care despite the fury of Mother Nature being displayed around them.

The Dangers of Natural Disasters

Hurricanes are not a problem for the residents of Northern Illinois, but our region is still susceptible to other types of natural disasters. For example, in an average year, more than 60 tornadoes are reported in Illinois, some of which cause significant damage and injuries. Illinois is also known for extreme winter weather, including blizzards and ice storms that can lead to long-lasting power outages and other problems. Regardless of the event in question, nursing homes still have the responsibility to continue providing care to their residents and keeping the residents as safe as possible under the circumstances.

Experts say that the most important thing that nursing home management can do regarding natural disasters is to have an established emergency plan in place. An emergency preparedness plan should, at the very least, include:

  • Considerations for backup power, including generators;
  • Addressing specific patient needs, such as oxygen, medications, and feeding tubes;
  • How to handle an injury or death during the disaster;
  • How residents should evacuate if the need arises;
  • How to ensure all residents are identified and accounted for during evacuation;
  • Transportation arrangements for residents, food, water, and necessary equipment; and
  • Covering the responsibilities of staff members who cannot make it to work due to the disaster.

Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, the Department of Public Health provides minimum standards for nursing home regarding “evacuation and other appropriate safety plans for use during weather, health, fire, physical plant, environmental, and national defense emergencies.” Failing to comply with these standards could leave the facility liable for any injuries or deaths caused as a result.

Four Charged in Florida

Last week, in a stroke of coincidental timing, officials in Hollywood, Florida, announced the arrests of four nursing home staff members in connection with the death of residents under their care during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Local prosecutors allege that a dozen residents of a nursing home died of heatstroke because the home’s administrator and nighttime supervisor failed to take appropriate action. The administrator and the night nursing supervisor each face 12 counts of aggravated manslaughter. Two other nurses have been charged with aggravated manslaughter, as well as tampering with evidence related to the patients’ medical records.

Contact an Illinois Nursing Home Injury Lawyer for Guidance

If you have a loved one in a nursing home and you are concerned about the level of care he or she is receiving, contact an experienced Cook County nursing home abuse and neglect attorney. Our team will meet with you to discuss your case and help you determine your best course action for pursuing compensation. Call Schwartz Injury Law at 312-535-4625 for a free consultation.



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