Sen. Marco Ru­bio urges Sen­ate in­quiry into nurs­ing home deaths.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By An­thony Man Staff writer aman@sun­sen­, 954-356-4550

U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio said Thurs­day the Sen­ate com­mit­tee with ju­ris­dic­tion over Medi­care and Med­i­caid should in­ves­ti­gate what led to the deaths of 14 res­i­dents of a Hol­ly­wood nurs­ing home in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nel­son asked the Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee two weeks ago to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills.

Eight peo­ple died on Sept. 13 af­ter the air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem lost power and tem­per­a­tures soared at the home. The death toll has in­creased as more vic­tims have suc­cumbed to the ef­fects of time spent in the swel­ter­ing home. The nurs­ing home is now closed and 245 work­ers have been laid off.

The deaths are al­ready un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Hol­ly­wood Po­lice Depart­ment and the Flor­ida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment.

But the sen­a­tors want to know more. “This has shocked the state of Flor­ida, and right­fully raised ques­tions about the over­sight of nurs­ing homes, par­tic­u­larly the en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing emer­gency

pre­pared­ness re­quire­ments,” Ru­bio wrote in a let­ter to the lead­ers of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee.

“I implore you to in­ves­ti­gate the fail­ures that oc­curred at this nurs­ing home and oth­ers through­out the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in Flor­ida and Puerto Rico, to pre­vent sim­i­lar tragedies from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture,” Ru­bio wrote. Last month, he pushed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices for an­swers to ques­tions about the tragedy.

In their let­ters to the com­mit­tee, Nel­son and Ru­bio pointed to be­low av­er­age rat­ings, med­i­ca­tion er­ror rates and other vi­o­la­tions of fed­eral reg­u­la­tions — all po­ten­tial sub­jects of an in­quiry.

“In con­duct­ing such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I would ask the com­mit­tee to ex­am­ine emer­gency pre­pared­ness plans at this and other sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties, as well as the state’s re­sponse in the af­ter­math of the Flor­ida in­ci­dent, to en­sure that our se­niors in nurs­ing homes are be­ing pro­tected dur­ing hur­ri­canes and other dis­as­ters,” Nel­son wrote in his Sept. 29 let­ter.

The re­quest from Ru­bio, a Re­pub­li­can, may in­crease the like­li­hood of a Sen­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion, be­cause he is in the ma­jor­ity party.

Nel­son, a Demo­crat, is in the mi­nor­ity party in the Sen­ate. The nurs­ing home deaths and the state’s re­sponse are likely to be an is­sue in next year’s elec­tion, when Re­pub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott is widely ex­pected to chal­lenge Nel­son.

“This has shocked the state of Flori­daa, and right­fully raised ques­tions about the over­sight of nurs­ing homes.” Sen. Mar­cio Ru­bio

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