Lebanon County nursing home safety concerns raised following power outage

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NORTH ANNVILLE TOWNSHIP, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa -- A nursing home in Lebanon County that was left in the dark is raising some red flags for those with loved ones inside.

Carol Hershey says her grandmother who is on hospice care at Countryside Christian Community relies on an oxygen tank to make her remaining days as comfortable as possible.

Hershey says while visiting her grandmother, a storm knocked out the power.

"It was pitch black I mean it was shocking," said Carol Hershey.

She says nurses were in emergency mode running electrical cords through the hallways trying to hook up people's oxygen machines and beds.

“They were scrambling," said Hershey. “We were helping them look in the room for those red medical emergency outlets, there was none.”

“Why are there not security lights and why are there not these emergency outlets in the rooms?” said Hershey.

According to Pennsylvania's Department of Health, emergency power requirements for nursing homes are found in National Fire Protection Association 101, The Life Safety Code, 2012 edition.

In an email they wrote:  At a minimum, facilities must have emergency lighting and key Life Safety Code features (fire alarm system, etc.) on emergency power for 90 minutes to support evacuation.  All facilities are also required to have an emergency preparedness plan. If, in their emergency preparedness plan and risk assessment, they determine that the best way to keep residents safe is to have additional emergency power so that they do not need to begin evacuation measures upon sustained loss of power, the nursing home may have additional emergency power capabilities.  

Nursing homes with residents on ventilation must have emergency power to electrical outlets to power the ventilators during loss of power.

Every nursing home is unique in its assessment and level of emergency power capabilities outside of what is required for lighting and Life Safety systems.  This information can be found in the CMS emergency preparedness plan required for each facility. 

FOX43 reached out to  Countryside Christian Community for comment regarding the allegations.

This is the email they sent us:

The power went out at 6:15 p.m., while there was still daylight, and came back on at 8:44 p.m. The facility’s generators immediately came on and continued operating during the outage. Countryside has three generators and they provide power for the central heating system, the domestic water system, emergency lighting throughout the building, emergency electrical outlets, the administrative telephone system, the door security system, the fire alarm system and the nurse call system phones and wireless devices.  The facility has an extensive security camera system and the video footage clearly shows that all the emergency lights were on within the building.  Any allegation that the building was without lights during the power outage is erroneous.

Countryside has an extensive emergency preparedness policy and procedure  as required under the federal and state requirements for nursing homes. According to the policy, as soon as the power went off, the nursing staff immediately began to make sure that all essential medical equipment was transferred from regular outlets and plugged into the emergency outlets. In some instances extension cords needed to be used because of the distance.  Countryside maintains emergency equipment immediately available on the unit for such purposes. The cords are hung along the handrails in the corridor but in some instances by necessity they are on the floor.  No residents were deprived of any health care services, and all had access to their oxygen tanks during the power outage.

While the power outage posed a challenge to both Countryside and the County itself, we followed our Emergency Preparedness Plan and ensured the safety of our residents.  While conditions within the building were not optimal for a period of approximately 2 and ½ hours, our staff responded swiftly to the conditions, and our residents continued to receive the services they required until power was restored.

However, a resident we spoke with that lives at the community says she did not see any lights for nearly two hours.

“It was completely dark that night when the power went out and no one contacts you we heard nothing," she said.

A spokesperson with Countryside Christian Community tells FOX43 they have emergency lighting. We asked for surveillance video from the day the power went out to verify, however we did not hear back.

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