A new report, released August 29 by Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) and funded by The John A. Hartford Foundation, offers ten recommendations for improving how frail and elderly people are cared for during major disasters, such as hurricanes, so as to prevent needless deaths. LuMarie Polivka-West, in an introductory letter to the report–Caring for Vulnerable Elders during a Disaster: National Findings of the 2007 Nursing Home Hurricane Summit–said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “determined that the elderly accounted for…70 percent of the deaths from Hurricane Katrina.” Representatives from seven southeastern coastal states, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies, and others attended this May 2007 summit, convened by the FHCA.

Excerpts from the report’s recommendations include:

  1. “Disaster response systems…must designate nursing homes as ‘health care’ facilities with the ‘same priority status’ for utility restoration as hospitals have;
  2. “Shelter in place, when possible” and prepare the facility’s “physical plant to withstand hurricane winds and provide emergency power;”
  3. Transportation for evacuation of long-term care facilities “must be incorporated” into national, state, and local disaster planning;
  4. “Flexibility is key in successfully responding to disasters”–nursing home and assisted-living facility “plans are not and should not be considered set in concrete.”

Additional information about Louisiana health system reform is available in the new edition of Health Affairs’ GrantWatch Online. Links include reports on rebuilding Louisiana’s health care system; foundation and corporate giving in the aftermath of the Gulf coast hurricanes; and audio interviews with Louisiana health system leaders.