TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senator Linda R. Greenstein that would ensure, in the event of future natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, patients and residents of certain health care facilities would not be put at risk due to loss of power was approved Thursday by the full Assembly.
Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, comprehensive personal care homes, pediatric community transitional homes, federally-qualified health centers, dialysis centers, hospice in-patient cares, and residential health care centers connected to another licensed facility would all be included under the bill.
“In times of power loss or failure due to natural disasters, the impact on our state’s ill and elderly residents at hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities can be devastating. Learning from the lessons of the past, as in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we know that leaving such facilities without power is not an option,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “We must be prepared to minimize the risks that face our most vulnerable patients and residents. By ensuring that these facilities are properly equipped, we can rest a little easier knowing that those who need critical care will get it in the face of another natural disaster.”
The bill, S-854, would require certain health care facilities to be equipped with an electrical transfer switch and wiring within one year that complies with applicable standards administered by the Health Care Plan Review Unit. The facilities, under the bill, would also be required to have a signed contract to have a generator delivered to the facility in the event of a power outage that can be connected to the electrical transfer switch and provides backup electrical power for a minimum of 48 hours for such equipment as critical life support equipment, refrigeration for medications, emergency lighting in common areas and for egress and exit signs, communications, fire and other safety detection alarm systems, sump or sewerage pumps, and elevator service if needed to relocate or evacuate residents.
“Emergency preparedness is critical to minimizing the losses we could potentially suffer in another natural disaster like Sandy. We can’t allow what happened during Sandy, when so many health care facilities were left without power, to happen again,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “This legislation will provide the necessary safeguards to keep our at-risk residents safer should the need arise.”
Facilities that elect to proceed with onsite generators would be required to check the generators weekly, test them under load monthly, service them in accordance with manufacturer instructions and maintain a log of the testing and service.
The Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations of his conditional veto and passed the bill with a vote of 62-0. The Senate passed the revised bill with a vote of 39-0. It now heads back to the Governor for signing.