Nursing Home Officials Apply for Exemption from Rolling Blackouts
In an application sent last week, nursing home advocates have asked the Public Utilities Commission to exempt nursing facilities from this summer's expected rolling blackouts, the Contra Costa Times reports. Kelley Queale, communications director of the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents the state's for-profit nursing homes, said that the blackouts would be "very disruptive to the residents, particularly those with frail health." CAHF Vice President Peggy Goldstein added, "We have serious concerns for the safety of our 140,000 residents." Last month, PUC exempted hospitals from the blackouts but did not include nursing homes. The homes were instead included in a "catch-all category" -- "essential customers" -- that PUC intends to review individually by industry. CAHF's application asks PUC to consider that "the health and well-being of elderly and disabled patients depends greatly on the facility's ability to provide quality care in a safe, low-stress environment, which depends on temperature control, lighting, infection control and the use of high-tech medical equipment."
Nursing homes are required by state law to use backup generators during blackouts, but those generators do not run air conditioners, a "crucial element of keeping frail people alive during the summer," the Times reports. In an April 26 letter to PUC Commissioner Carl Wood, Anne Burns Johnson, executive director of the California Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, wrote, "This will become a critical issue if a facility is located in a region where temperatures may exceed 90 degrees. Seniors are very vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature and dehydration rapidly compromises the health of the frail elderly." Queale said that she expects the PUC to rule on the nursing home matter during its May 25 meeting (Peele, Contra Costa Times, 5/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.