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Florida nursing homes challenge governor's order to install generators

Florida nursing homes challenge governor's order to install generators
A woman is transported from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Fla., on Sept. 13 after the facility lost power because of Hurricane Irma, leading to 11 deaths. (Amy Beth Bennett / Associated Press)

A group that represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities is challenging Florida Gov. Rick Scott's order that they install generators by Dec. 1, saying the deadline is impossible to meet and the order is simply a reaction to one incompetent nursing home where 11 people died in sweltering heat after Hurricane Irma.

LeadingAge Florida filed the legal challenge with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings on Tuesday, claiming Scott's order went beyond what's necessary to protect residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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"There is no emergency that requires the imposition of an impossible deadline and the imminent revocation on assisted living facility and nursing home licenses," the complaint said. "The emergency rules would create an emergency rather than solve one."

Scott issued his order after 11 residents at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died in the days after Irma wiped out power to much of South Florida. A criminal investigation has begun and the facility has been criticized for not taking the residents to a hospital directly across the street.

LeadingAge Florida, which represents more than 100 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, noted that the deadline to install generators is the day after the hurricane season ends.

"Thus the emergency rules cannot be intended to address an emergency created by the current hurricane season," it said.

In a separate statement, LeadingAge Florida President Steve Bahmer said the group is willing to work with the governor on eventually meeting the directive.

"Let us be clear, this is not a lack of willingness to carry out the governor's directive. It is a timing and logistical issue. Completing the governor's directive in 60 days is simply not possible, as there are many factors that are outside of our members' control, such as obtaining permits, updating and installing electrical systems, ordering generators and storing fuel," he said.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for Scott, said in an email that the governor's rule is only intended to save lives.

"This association should focus solely on keeping seniors safe and not on lawsuits," Lewis said.

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