Storm knocked out cen­ter’s power, air con­di­tion­ing

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez

Fed­eral, state and lo­cal author­i­ties opened a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the deaths of eight nurs­ing home res­i­dents who died of ap­par­ent heatre­lated causes af­ter their fa­cil­ity lost air con­di­tion­ing dur­ing the power out­age trig­gered by Irma.

Emer­gency teams re­sponded to the nurs­ing home Wed­nes­day af­ter po­lice got a 911 call about a heart at­tack at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills. Hol­ly­wood Po­lice Chief To­mas Sanchez said 115 peo­ple were evac­u­ated, some in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. Three peo­ple were found dead at the scene, one died dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion, and four were pro­nounced dead at a hos­pi­tal.

Randy Katz, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Hol­ly­wood Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal’s emer­gency depart­ment, said he found a chaotic scene when he en­tered the nearby fa­cil­ity. “When we were called to help, we mo­bi­lized at least 50 to 100 of

our em­ploy­ees that left the hos­pi­tal, ran down the street and pulled all of th­ese pa­tients out of the fa­cil­ity and made sure that they got to a safe place,” he said.

He said most of the pa­tients were treated for res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress, de­hy­dra­tion and other heat-re­lated is­sues. About a dozen re­mained in emer­gency care by mid­day Wed­nes­day.

The Broward County med­i­cal ex­am­iner iden­ti­fied the vic­tims as

Bobby Owens, 84; Manuel Mario Medi­eta, 96; Miguel An­to­nio Franco, 92; Estella Hen­dricks, 71; Gail Nova, 71; Carolyn Eatherly, 78; Betty Hib­bard, 84; and Al­bertina Vega, 99.

Sanchez said his of­fice is work­ing with the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice and fed­eral agen­cies to de­ter­mine what kind of crim­i­nal charges might be filed against op­er­a­tors of the fa­cil­i­ties. He said they were look­ing into ex­actly when the power went out and whether an on-site gen­er­a­tor was used af­ter that. Some win­dows were closed when of­fi­cers ar­rived, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors tried to fig­ure out whether that was an over­sight or they couldn’t open.

The po­lice chief said in­ves­ti­ga­tors fo­cused on the sec­ond floor of the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter, which was “ex­tremely hot.”

In re­cent years, the fa­cil­ity had been cited by the Florida Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion for prob­lems with tem­po­rary gen­er­a­tors.

Dur­ing an in­spec­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2016, “the fa­cil­ity was not able to pro­duce any writ­ten doc­u­men­ta­tion to sub­stan­ti­ate” use of a tem­po­rary gen­er­a­tor, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment from the agency’s data­base.

In an in­spec­tion in De­cem­ber 2014, the re­mote gen­er­a­tor alarm near a nurses’ sta­tion “failed to func­tion” when tested.

That in­spec­tion — con­ducted by the Florida agency to de­ter­mine whether the fa­cil­ity ful­filled safety and other re­quire­ments for nurs­ing homes par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Medi­care and Med­i­caid pro­grams — found the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter was “not in sub­stan­tial com­pli­ance,” and the op­er­a­tors were re­quired to take cor­rec­tive mea­sures, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter to the fa­cil­ity from the AHCA.

Jorge Car­ballo, the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter’s ad­min­is­tra­tor, said the home “is co­op­er­at­ing fully with rel­e­vant author­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances that led to this un­for­tu­nate and tragic out­come. Our hearts go out to the fam­i­lies and friends of those who were af­fected.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he will “ag­gres­sively de­mand an­swers on how this tragic event took place.”

“Ev­ery fa­cil­ity that is charged with car­ing for pa­tients must take ev­ery ac­tion and pre­cau­tion to keep their pa­tients safe — es­pe­cially pa­tients who are in poor health,” Scott said.

“Ev­ery fa­cil­ity ... must take ev­ery ac­tion and pre­cau­tion to keep their pa­tients safe — es­pe­cially pa­tients who are in poor health.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott


Po­lice di­rect peo­ple at the scene where nurs­ing home res­i­dents in Hol­ly­wood, Fla., died from in­tense heat.


At least 115 peo­ple were evac­u­ated at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter in Hol­ly­wood Hills be­cause of in­tense heat and no power.

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