Coordination Between Policymakers and Long Term Care Providers Key in Planning for Disasters
Senate Aging Testimony Highlights Importance of Improving Facilities’ Evacuation Practices
Washington, DC – The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) praised LuMarie Polivka-West’s testimony before Congress today, which focused on the importance of a coordinated effort between long term care facilities and the government in all aspects of disaster planning and preparedness.
“AHCA/NCAL thanks Ms. Polivka-West for her initiative in ensuring that all frail, elderly, and disabled citizens are able to retain access to the long term care and services essential to their health and well being during a disaster,” stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “We encourage Congress to take swift action to ensure that all care providers – regardless of tax status – can access federal assistance for disaster relief efforts.”
In her testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Polivka-West discussed complications that occurred during the 2005 hurricane season, stating, “As decisions were being made regarding evacuations, many nursing home administrators did not have the same knowledge or guidance about when, and if, they should evacuate as hospitals did. Following several hurricanes during that season, utility services did not understand the special needs of the frail elderly and those with disabilities in nursing homes and assisted living communities, leaving them without electricity and telephone services.”
As the Senior Vice President with the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) and Principal Investigator of the John A. Hartford Foundation Emergency Preparedness grant, Polivka-West discussed the steps that need to be taken by our nation’s long term care facilities and policymakers to develop appropriate disaster planning. These steps include creating a disaster planning guide and software that facilities can refer to, including disaster preparation training exercises in nursing home staff program, and assembling annual hurricane summits.
Polivka-West addressed the importance of keeping facilities informed and supplying them with the tools to be prepared in any given emergency situation. She stressed that forming a constructive dialogue with legislation is crucial to creating a well-executed disaster plan. “Due to the very vulnerable and complex population that we serve, it is essential that we work together with policymakers to better prepare ourselves for any disaster,” stated Ms. Polivka-West.
“The road ahead is no doubt challenging,” concluded Polivka-West. “But the important task before us is to objectively examine how local, state, and federal governments – working with transportation, the health care spectrum, and business groups – can better prepare for and coordinate disaster recovery efforts for our most vulnerable citizens nationwide.”
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represent more than 11,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahca.org or www.ncal.org.