With the 2006 hurricane upon us, the Department of Health has adopted new regulations that require nursing facilities to be better prepared for an emergency, including evacuations. The regulations are effective today, June 1, 2006.

Adopted by an emergency rule, the new regulations require all nursing homes to have an emergency preparedness plan that conforms to the guidelines established by the Office of Emergency Preparedness. These emergency plans must be reviewed by each nursing facility’s local office of emergency preparedness and provided to the LDH Bureau of Health Standards, the health agency’s licensing bureau.

LDH is charged with reviewing each plan to determine its viability. Plans that are found to have weaknesses will be sent back to the nursing facility for correction. The regulation also requires nursing facilities to follow their individual plans in the event of an emergency.

Each plan developed by a nursing facility must include the following:

·       Outline procedures and criteria to determine if a facility should evacuate or shelter in place.

·       Name the primary sheltering site, as well as an alternate site, outside the impacted area.

·       Describe how essential services will be provided to nursing facility residents during the crisis.

·       Describe how staff will be properly managed and contacted.

·       Plan for the coordination of transportation services necessary for a safe evacuation.

·       Describe how residents’ families will be notified.

·       Ensure that residents are properly identified.

·       Provide necessary information about each resident’s medical information and medical needs.

·       Provide next-of-kin information for each resident.

·       Plan for adequate medical, food and water supplies.

In addition, the new regulations require each nursing facility to activate its plan annually, either in response to an emergency or during a planned drill.

According to LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise, the department will review each nursing home’s plan to ensure the necessary protections are in place.

“All homes must have written agreements with transportation providers in place. Facilities must make good faith efforts to prepare and respond to emergencies. Facilities that do not take these responsibilities seriously will be subject to fines and other sanctions. After last year, we know where the gaps in emergency plans exist, and we will require nursing homes to strengthen their plans and better protect their residents,” said Dr. Cerise.