Fears for elderly as eight die
Eight patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the airconditioning, raising fears about the safety of Florida’s four million senior citizens.
EIGHT patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the airconditioning, raising fears yesterday about the safety of Florida’s four million senior citizens amid power outages that could last for days.
Hollywood police chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believed the deaths at the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills were heat-related and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.”
Governor Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on all nursing homes to make sure patients were safe and he vowed to punish anyone found culpable in the deaths.
“This situation is unfathomable,” he said.
The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC. The five women and three men ranged in age from 70 to 99. Across the street from the stifling nursing home is a fully airconditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.
Broward County said the nursing home had alerted the county emergency operations centre that it had lost power, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” the police chief said.
When asked why the patients hadn’t been taken across the street to Memorial Regional hospital when temperatures became dangerous, Hollywood city spokeswoman Rayelin Storey said: “We can’t get inside the heads of the staff and the administrators of this facility.”
The Hollywood facility’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, said that it was “co-operating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome”.
The deaths came as people confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s aftermath, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal generator fumes. Florida has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any US state – 1 in 5 of its 20 million residents.
Mary Della Ratta, 94, has been without power in her Naples home for days. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “How am I going to last here?”
STRUGGLING: Mary Della Ratta, 94, at home days after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in Naples, Florida.