As nursing homes on Florida’s west coast evacuate under threat from Hurricane Ian, some residents headed to facilities in Polk County.
The Estates at Carpenters, a facility in North Lakeland, had accepted six residents as of Wednesday morning from a nursing home in St. Petersburg, Director of Health Services Matt Thompson said. The Pinellas County facility lies in a mandatory evacuation zone, Thompson said.
Thompson offered to take as many as 16 residents but didn’t expect to receive any more as of Wednesday morning. Those transported will remain at the Lakeland facility until it is safe for them to return to St. Petersburg.
The Estates at Carpenters offered to accept temporary residents in its assisted living facility but did not receive any requests, Thompson said.
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Two other facilities in Polk County took in temporary residents in anticipation of Hurricane Ian, but they didn’t come from counties with evacuation orders. Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland had received some referrals from other facilities within Polk County, CEO Joe Xanthopoulos said Tuesday afternoon.
The Rohr Home, a county-owned skilled nursing facility in Bartow, had accepted nine temporary residents as of Tuesday evening and expected a total of about 20, said Alice Brown, Polk County’s aging and social services manager.
Brown said a few residents who had registered to be moved to Rohr Home during an emergency changed their minds and decided to shelter at home.
Hurricane Ian will present the first significant test of state requirements for all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have emergency generators and enough fuel to run them for at least 72 hours. The Florida Legislature enacted that rule following Hurricane Irma in 2017, when power failures at nursing homes in Broward County resulted in 12 deaths.
Thompson said that Estates at Carpenters installed a backup power system in 2007, long before the state requirement. He said the facility has a 400-kilowatt generator with a tank that holds 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
The staff tests the generator once a week, and Thompson said employees topped off the fuel tank on Tuesday.
“The last time we had to use it was during (Hurricane) Irma,” Thompson said. “Our community was out of power for a couple of days. We were able to use the generator, and it worked like a charm.”
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration maintains a list of facilities around the state and reported Tuesday that all were in compliance with the requirements for having substitute power systems. The agency’s website indicated that all 26 nursing homes and all 38 assisted living facilities in Polk County were in full compliance with the rules.
Thompson said that some of the staff at The Estates at Carpenters planned to remain at the site until the danger from Hurricane Ian had passed.
“We have some open spaces that we've converted into lodging for some of our staff,” he said. “Any of our staff that live in mobile home parks or don't feel safe, we've invited them to bring their families and we're letting their family stay here and we're going to house them all here through the hurricane.”
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Polk nursing homes take in temporary residents as storm approaches