8 die at Florida nurs­ing home in Irma’s swel­ter­ing af­ter­math

Porterville Recorder - - THE RECORD - By TIM REYNOLDS and TERRY SPENCER

HOL­LY­WOOD, Fla. — Eight pa­tients at a swel­ter­ing nurs­ing home died af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma knocked out the air con­di­tion­ing, rais­ing fears Wed­nes­day about the safety of Florida’s 4 mil­lion se­nior cit­i­zens amid power out­ages that could last for days.

Hol­ly­wood Po­lice Chief Tom Sanchez said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the deaths at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Center at Hol­ly­wood Hills were heatre­lated, and added: “The build­ing has been sealed off and we are con­duct­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emer­gency work­ers to im­me­di­ately check on all nurs­ing homes to make sure pa­tients are 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.

Ex­actly how the deaths hap­pened was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with Sanchez say­ing au­thor­i­ties have not ruled any­thing out, in­clud­ing car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing from gen­er­a­tors. He also said in­ves­ti­ga­tors will look into how many win­dows were open.

Across the street from the sti­fling nurs­ing home sat a fully air­con­di­tioned hospi­tal, Memo­rial Re­gional.

Broward County said the nurs­ing home had alerted the county emer­gency op­er­a­tions center on Tues­day 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. “We all have el­derly peo­ple in fa­cil­i­ties, and we all know we de­pend on those peo­ple in those fa­cil­i­ties to care for a vul­ner­a­ble el­derly pop­u­la­tion.”

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.”

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