■ 911 calls raised first red flags of nursing home horror in Hollywood, Florida.
Florida issues new rules to survive power outage
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The first 911 call from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills didn’t sound ominous: A nursing home patient had an abnormal heartbeat.
An hour later, came a second call: A patient had trouble breathing. Then came the third call: A patient had gone into cardiac arrest — and died.
Over the next few hours of Wednesday morning, the dire situation at the Rehabilitation Center for fragile, elderly people would come into clearer view. Three days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the center still didn’t have air conditioning, and it ultimately became the worst tragedy in a state already full of them. Eight people died and 145 patients had to be moved out of the stifling-hot facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs.
Authorities launched an investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., made no effort to hide their anger and frustration.
On Saturday, Scott ordered the directors of the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs to issue emergency rules to keep residents safe in health
care facilities during emergencies.
This requires all assisted living facilities and nursing homes to obtain ample resources, including generators and the appropriate amount of fuel to maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96 hours following a power outage.
The Rehabilitation Center said the hurricane knocked out a transformer that powered the air conditioning. The center said in a detailed timeline of events released Friday that it repeatedly was told by Florida Power and Light that it would fix the transformer, but the utility did not show up until Wednesday morning, hours after the first patients began having emergencies.
Rosemary Cooper, a licensed practical nurse at the rehabilitation center, defended the staff ’s work but declined to discuss specifics.
“The people who were working there worked hard to make a good outcome for our patients,” she said in a brief interview before hanging up on a reporter. “We cared for them like family.”