Maryland OHCQ Issues Code Red Heat Alert for Nursing Homes

In a recent blog, our Baltimore, Maryland Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys discussed the recent relocation of 220 nursing home residents, after an unprecedented heat wave in Baltimore lead to air conditioning malfunctions that closed two nursing homes—in an effort to protect the health and safety of the residents until the center’s heating and cooling systems are repaired.

The Maryland Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ) issued a “Code Red – Heat Alert” last week, along with the Baltimore City Health Department, cautioning all Maryland licensed health care and residential facilities to implement appropriate plans to ensure the health and safety of residents while the outside temperatures are near or above 100°F.

The health department made recommendations for nursing homes to:

• Relocate resident activities to cooler areas, and caution nursing home residents to cut back on outdoor activities during the extremely hot days to prevent nursing home injury or illness.
• Monitor and address the behavior of dementia patients, or confused patients who may want to be wrapped in blankets, or wear too many clothes.
• Make sure the cold water is constantly available for residents, and offer it frequently.
• To keep residents cool, offer ice packs, or washcloths that are cool and wet, to help them endure the heat. Also give residents baths or shower that are cool, or lukewarm in temperature.
• As nursing home A/C systems will be operating at their maximum potential during the heat wave, contact maintenance staff to check the A/C systems, and perform required maintenance measures in advance, to prevent system failures.
• Rearrange any nursing home equipment or furniture that may be blocking any vents on the walls or floor to improve air circulation and make sure that the movement of air is not obstructed.
• Check the operation of all refrigerators and ice makers in facilities that do not have A/C or where kitchens are not cooled with A/C, to make sure that the refrigeration units are maintaining the correct temperatures.
• Make sure all medications for residents are stored at the temperatures listen on the packaging or prescription labels. Relocate the drugs to secure storage if necessary, to prevent any nursing home negligence or injury.
• Turn off any unnecessary lights that do not impact any activity for residents or staff, and close the curtains to keep out the hot sun. Also avoid the use of heat producing equipment like vacuums, stoves, or ovens.

The OHCQ also recommends that every facility test to make sure their emergency lighting is operable, and that flashlights are available, in case of a power outage. For any facilities that have an emergency generator, they recommend that the generator is tested, operational, and has enough fuel in case of back-up emergency.

Our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers support the rights for Maryland and Washington D.C. residents to live in a nursing home environment filled with quality care that improves and maintains the quality of their mental and physical health, and is free from any negligence that could result in injury or wrongful death. Contact us today.

Code Red – Heat Alert, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Office of Health Care Quality, July 7, 2010
Nursing Home Could Face Deficiencies for No A/C, WBALTV, July 12, 2010
Nursing Home Residents With No A/C to Move, WBALTV, July 6, 2010
150 Residents Moved Out of Hot Md. Nursing Home, July 7, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Office of Health Care Quality

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