Nursing Home Emergency Plans Unregulated by State
Emergency preparedness plans for California nursing homes are largely unregulated by local and state authorities, which leaves homes with "insufficient guidance" and allows some homes to "avoid crucial preparation," according to an investigation by the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
The Tribune reports that nursing homes are required to develop and self-evaluate their emergency drills and plans. State regulators will investigate a nursing home if a self-evaluation is reported, but many problems "can go unseen" by state officials, according to the Tribune.
The Tribune investigation found that regulators have limited authority in requiring nursing homes to maintain a stockpile of one week's worth of medicines for residents, considered the standard after Hurricane Katrina. Six nursing homes interviewed by the Tribune said they kept a 72-hour supply.
State officials also cannot require nursing homes to have specific alternate communication systems in the event telephone lines are down. Acceptable backup communication plans include cell phones or runners, who would go to nearby fire stations to alert authorities of an emergency.
Tracey Vardas, a San Luis Obispo County emergency coordinator, said county public health officials are meeting with nursing homes to encourage the development of emergency transportation and communication plans that coordinate with county emergency plans.
According to the Tribune, no legislation is planned to increase the state's oversight of nursing homes (Griffy, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 12/11).