Florida nursing homes face Hurricane Ian with rescues and generators : NPR


Residents had to be rescued from the Avante at the Orlando Nursing Home in Orange County, Florida as flood waters from Hurricane Ian rose.

Jean Raoux/AP


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Jean Raoux/AP


Residents had to be rescued from the Avante at the Orlando Nursing Home in Orange County, Florida as flood waters from Hurricane Ian rose.

Jean Raoux/AP

Stay or go?

That was the question facing the hundreds of Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the path of Hurricane Ian this week. Moving elderly residents can cause ‘transfer trauma’, with the stress of moving sometimes causing deterioration. But staying put during a powerful hurricane carries obvious health and safety risks.

As Ian continues to wreak havoc in the Southeast and is now responsible for 21 deaths in Florida, NPR contacted two dozen Florida nursing homes in Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties, where the storm hit first. Most could not be reached or declined to comment, but some shared updates.

“In 42 years, we’ve never evacuated,” says an employee at Calusa Port in Fort Myers, Florida. The employee asked NPR not to use his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

But for Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida in peak Category 5 winds, that changed. Calusa Harbor moved its assisted residents to an affiliated facility an hour south.

More than 40 nursing homes made the same choice and evacuated about 3,400 residents before the storm set in, according to the Florida Health Care Association, a professional organization. Most are located in the southwestern part of the state and have relocated residents to affiliated facilities outside the storm’s path. At least 115 other assisted living facilities also evacuated residents.

Others have opted out.

“We stayed and we endured,” says Tameka Miller, who works at the Port Charlotte Rehabilitation Center in Charlotte County. Resident embedded staff and some family members also came through the storm with their loved ones.

“We’ve had a few hiccups but everything is fine. We’re running a generator and operating normally,” Miller says.

Flooding in unexpected places led to rescues

As Ian dumped more than a foot of water over parts of the state, five other nursing homes with hundreds of residents said they were forced to leave as floodwaters rose, some well into outside the evacuation zone, according to the FHCA.

In central Florida and on the east coast, “the water rose so fast because they took in so much rain that they had to leave,” said spokeswoman Kristen Knapp.

In one such area, Orange County Fire Rescue reported evacuating the Avante in Orlando and The Bridge and Life Care of Orlando facilities.

Videos show rescuers carrying residents in wheelchairs and stretchers to waiting buses.

The person who answered the phone at Avante in Orlando declined to comment and gave a number to a corporate mailbox that was full.

The Bridge At Orlando didn’t pick up either. A person who answered the phone at Life Care Center in Orlando said 122 people had been transferred to an affiliated facility in Altamonte Springs.

“We are grateful for the compassion and professionalism shown by our staff during and after the hurricane as they focused on keeping our residents calm and comfortable,” said the CEO of Life Care Centers of America. , Joe Jicha, in a statement.

As of Friday, about 21 nursing homes are without power, according to Knapp, who says it could be an undercount due to power outages.

Florida law requires all assisted living facilities and nursing homes to have backup power and four days’ worth of generator fuel, after more than a dozen people died at a South Florida facility following Hurricane Irma due to lack of air conditioning. Knapp says utility companies had checked and prioritized those buildings for reconnection.

Christina Webb, a front desk staff member at Coral Trace Health Care in Cape Coral, says her facility also weathered the storm. The electricity was out for about two days, but the generators are working well.

“The only thing we had was damage from falling trees, but people are out there picking it up now,” Webb says.

Several Florida counties remain almost entirely without power, and a spokesperson for Florida Power & Light told Reuters some areas will remain dark for an “extended period” because the damage to the electrical system was too extensive.

“[We’re] just taking it day to day right now,” says Webb.

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