Se­niors fight post-Irma heat with Pop­si­cles, com­presses

Houston Chronicle - - NATION - By Terry Spencer and Jay Reeves

HOL­LY­WOOD, Fla. — Florida se­niors shuf­fled out of sti­fling as­sisted-liv­ing cen­ters Thurs­day while care­givers fought a lack of air con­di­tion­ing with Pop­si­cles and cool com­presses af­ter eight peo­ple died at a nurs­ing home in the posthur­ri­cane heat.

Dozens of the state’s se­nior cen­ters still lacked elec­tric­ity in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma, and sev­eral fa­cil­i­ties were forced to evac­u­ate. While de­tec­tives sought clues to the deaths, emer­gency work­ers went door to door to look for any­one else who was at risk.

‘Frankly, it’s very scary’

In one of the lat­est ac­tions to pro­tect older peo­ple, 57 res­i­dents were moved from a sub­ur­ban Fort Laud­erdale as­sist­edliv­ing fa­cil­ity with­out power to two nearby homes where power had been re­stored. Owner Ralph Mar­rin­son said all five of his Florida fa­cil­i­ties lost elec­tric­ity af­ter Irma. Work­ers scram­bled to keep pa­tients cool with emer­gency stocks of ice and Pop­si­cles.

“FPL has got to have a bet­ter plan for power,” he said, re­fer­ring to the state’s largest util­ity, Florida Power & Light. “We’re sup­posed to be on a pri­or­ity list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly, it’s very scary.”

Stepped-up safety checks were con­ducted around the state af­ter eight deaths at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top lead­ers as they sur­veyed de­struc­tion from the pun­ish­ing storm. Mean­while, the Jus­tice De­part­ment an­nounced task forces in Florida and Puerto Rico to in­ves­ti­gate hur­ri­cane-re­lated fraud.

Statewide, 64 nurs­ing homes were still wait­ing Thurs­day for full power, ac­cord­ing to the Florida Health Care As­so­ci­a­tion. The sep­a­rate Florida As­sisted Liv­ing As­so­ci­a­tion said many of its South Florida mem­bers lacked elec­tric­ity.

A day ear­lier near Or­lando, fire­fight­ers helped re­lo­cate 122 peo­ple from two as­sisted-liv­ing cen­ters that had been with­out power since the storm. And at the 15,000-res­i­dent Cen­tury Vil­lage re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Pem­broke Pines, where there were also wide­spread out­ages, res­cue work­ers went door to door to check on res­i­dents and bring ice, wa­ter and meals.

To the east, the Greater Mi­ami Jewish Fed­er­a­tion has been check­ing on el­derly res­i­dents in their homes and felt a greater sense of ur­gency af­ter the deaths. CEO Ja­cob Solomon said the group en­cour­aged peo­ple to evac­u­ate be­fore the storm if they could, but now they’re fo­cused on help­ing them in their homes.

“At this point, we’re bet­ter off tak­ing care of them where they are. They didn’t leave then. They’re not go­ing to leave now. What are you go­ing to do? You go, you check on them, you make sure they have wa­ter and food and that’s it,” he said. “You’re not go­ing to con­vince a 95-year-old Holo­caust sur­vivor to do some­thing that she doesn’t want to do.”

Mil­lions with­out power

Though the num­ber of peo­ple with elec­tric­ity has im­proved from ear­lier in the week, some 4.9 mil­lion peo­ple across the penin­sula con­tin­ued to wait for power. Util­ity of­fi­cials warned it could take a week or more for all ar­eas to be back up and run­ning.

In­clud­ing the nurs­ing home deaths, at least 26 peo­ple in Florida have died un­der Irma-re­lated cir­cum­stances, and six more in South Carolina and Ge­or­gia, many of them well af­ter the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

On Thurs­day, de­tec­tives were at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills af­ter re­ceiv­ing a search war­rant to in­ves­ti­gate the eight pa­tients’ deaths, which po­lice be­lieved were heat-re­lated.

The cen­ter said the hur­ri­cane knocked out a trans­former that pow­ered the air con­di­tion­ing.

State records in­di­cate the cen­ter showed de­fi­cien­cies in main­tain­ing fire and safety stan­dards per­tain­ing to ex­its and stor­age ar­eas, as well as more se­ri­ous prob­lems with its gen­er­a­tor main­te­nance.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.