5 dead at Florida nursing home without AC after Irma, others evacuated

17 September, 2017, 01:41 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • U.S. Military assists in Keys cleanup

Floridians driving home after Hurricane Irma can breathe a sigh of relief: It seems like Interstate 75 through north-central Florida might not have to close.

Others investigating include Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families.

The deaths are under investigation as criminal homicides.

A state investigation continues into the deaths - three of which occurred in the facility and five more at area hospitals - as lawyers for the Vega family say the center "neglected" her inside instead of transferring her to Memorial Hospital, located directly across the street.

The center said the hurricane knocked out a transformer that powered the air conditioning.

There are now no patients at the center. "Plus the fact that there were hospitals near the nursing home and no one contacted them when their generators went out", said senior Thaddeus Honora.

Key details of the Hollywood Hills incident remain unknown, even after officials delivered an update Thursday morning.

"I'm hoping that Irma was a wake-up call", he said in an interview.

Richard Beltran, a spokesman for Florida Power & Light, said Wednesday: "What we know now is that a portion of the facility did, in fact, have power, that there was a hospital across the parking lot from this facility and that the nursing home was required to have a permanently installed operational generator".

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The centre had some electricity, but not enough to power the air conditioning.

Officials are still figuring out what happened when and said they do not want to speculate or prematurely release incorrect information.

"The people who were working there worked hard to make a good outcome for our patients", she said. "Generally, we are treating dehydration, heat exhaustion and severe respiratory conditions, and we do have some critical patients". CMS records show Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills was only equipped with a temporary generator in early 2016 and officials lacked a plan to replace it with a permanent generator. One resident died at the facility Tuesday but, because the patient had a do-not-resuscitate order, was sent to a funeral home before police asked for the body, according to police.

The causes of their deaths are yet to be determined, but indications are that they were related to the loss of air conditioning during the storm and in the days after. Of the eight patient deaths, seven occurred Wednesday. He added: "As of Tuesday, [the facility] was reporting that everything was OK, that it was using portable air conditioners and fans".

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday night that he has directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate the center as a Medicaid provider.

The database appears to show the next update from the facility was not until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday - leaving a almost 46-hour gap in the updates, as reflected in the database.

WLRN says the Rehabilitation Center had a history of poor performance in state regulators' inspections. The state lists Dr. Jack Michel, of South Miami, as the company's manager. That backup power must be able to keep temperatures in a safe range for nursing home residents and whatever provisions are stored there, according to more recent regulations that must be implemented by November 2017. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department fined Larkin and its owners $15.4 million in the settlement of a civil fraud complaint. Another 18 are being evacuated from Larkin's behavioral health services facility Wednesday.

In Broward County, more than 212,000 electricity accounts were without power Thursday morning, state officials said.

In one of the latest actions to protect older residents in storm-ravaged Florida, firefighters helped relocate 122 people late Wednesday from two assisted living centers near Orlando that had been without power since Hurricane Irma hit.

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