INQUIRY OPENED AFTER 8 DIE IN SWELTERING NURSING HOME
Storm knocked out center’s power, air conditioning
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.