Hurricane Irma largely spared Tampa Bay, and Pasco County, from its destructive path in 2017.
But, Irma also cast light on a weakness in hurricane preparedness for one of the most vulnerable populations – people living in licensed health care facilities.
The Pasco County Commission on July 10 approved an ordinance that makes provisions for coordinating evacuation plans between licensed health care facilities and the county’s emergency operations.
The ordinance also provides a fee schedule for licensed facilities, such as nursing homes and hospitals, to pay for county-led training and exercises in emergency management. And, it allows Pasco to hire an emergency management coordinator at an annual salary of about $61,000.
The coordinator will oversee the county’s health care operations program, including annual reviews of emergency plans prepared by licensed health care facilities. There also will be at least six annual training courses, and at least eight staged exercises to prepare for emergencies.
“The health care industry contacted us about this,” said Kevin Guthrie, Pasco’s assistant county administrator for public safety.
During Irma, some nursing homes evacuated patients to the county’s shelters. But, issues arose on the patient’s care and how they would be transported back to the nursing homes after Irma passed, county officials said.
Pasco County deputies, in some instances, had to step in and provide transportation.
Commissioners discussed the matter in a January workshop with local health care officials.
Funding for the program will come from annual fees of $250 collected from licensed facilities with 16 or fewer beds; and, $500 from facilities with more than 16 beds.
Also, a fee of just under $12 per bed will be collected.
At the January workshop, county officials reported estimates of more than 6,200 beds within the county. Most of the beds were at assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.
Published July 18, 2018