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Havoc wreaked by hurricanes, tornadoes prompts Georgia’s move to protect long-term care facilities

By Michael Boardman, CEO, Readiness Associates


A state that has experienced more than its share of recent disasters received a financial boost in the quest to protect its long-term care facilities (LTCFs) from future catastrophic events.

Georgia, hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 and by tornado outbreaks in 2016-2017, has recognized how vulnerable LTCFs are to natural and man-made disasters. In the wake of Hurricane Michael, for example, dozens of LTCFs had to rely on backup generators after losing power.

Fortunately, the Institute for Disaster Management (IDM) at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Public Health has received $1.6 million in civil money penalty funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to prepare LTCFs for those events, according to a January 2019 news report from UGA.

An aging population

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, more than 20 percent of Georgia’s residents will be 60 or older, a nearly 34 percent increase from 2012. Beginning in November 2017, CMS required that 17 types of healthcare facilities – including LTCFs – plan for and respond to natural and man-made disasters, so Georgia faces an urgent situation. In the UGA news report, Curt Harris, associate director of the IDM, noted the need to address it.

“Georgia’s 65 and older population is expected to increase by 143 percent by the year 2030,” said Harris. “Older adults, especially those who live in long-term care facilities, are historically vulnerable to disasters. If residents require specialized medical care, caregivers need to have a plan in place to keep residents safe and healthy.”

“We’re going from a hospital-only approach to the idea that we are, in fact, health care communities and coalitions, and we all need to be prepared in order to handle a disaster,” Tawny Waltz, an IDM research scientist, said in the UGA news report.

“People used to write plans based on individual disasters, so they would have a fire plan, a tornado plan, a hurricane plan, and whenever they encountered something new, they might write a plan,” Waltz said. “Well, that’s a lot of plans, and it’s not feasible to keep those up to date.”

Comprehensive approach

The IDM officials are, instead, focusing on an “all-hazards” approach through which organizations could respond to “any type of natural disaster, such as access to utilities, communications, food and medical supplies, despite the type of event taking place,” the UGA news report said.

LTCFs must prepare, in an era when disasters strike with increasing frequency, to ensure patient safety and even the very survival of their businesses. Forty percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. U.S. Small Business Administration statistics show that more than 90 percent of businesses fail within two years after being struck by disasters.

Maintaining business continuity

Many LTCFs simply don’t have the resources to adequately prepare on their own for catastrophic events. With Readiness Associates as a partner, clients can convert high stress, expensive, reactive events into proactive, tested plans and responses that protect resources, keep employees healthy and safe, and save money by preserving corporate assets and maintaining business continuity.