Government officials vastly undercounted the deaths of Florida nursing home residents after Hurricane Irma in 2017, researchers at Brown found.
David Dosa, MD, MPH, an associate professor of medicine and of health services, policy, and practice, compared deaths at nursing homes across Florida in the 30 days after the Category 4 storm to those reported over the same period in 2015, when no hurricanes occurred in the state. In JAMA Network Open, he reported that the actual death toll was more than double what the CDC reported.
“Our results suggest that this wasn’t an isolated phenomenon at one or two nursing homes,” says Dosa, who studies disaster management in the long-term care industry. “This occurred across the state.”
The study’s findings expose the cracks in the elder care system—which intensified when nursing homes were generally left out during the distribution of personal protective equipment in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dosa says. Data show that nearly one-quarter of COVID-related deaths in the US have occurred in long-term care settings.
“We need to prioritize nursing homes,” he says. “I hope that this work adds to the idea that nursing homes need to be front and center in disaster management.”