The Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center has been shut down by the state of Florida—but not before eight patients died while under care there or shortly after being evacuated from there, with three more patients to date having died within days after the evacuation.
Over 100 elderly and disabled patients in total were evacuated after Hurricane Irma, having been subject to 90+ degree weather for days at the facility. Hollywood, FL police Chief Tomas Sanchez stated that he believed their deaths were heat-related:
“They were utilizing portable A/C units which were insufficient to reduce the excess of heat in the facility. The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.”
Following calls to 911, first responders to the nursing home quickly evacuated patients over a period of three hours. The residents were treated at other facilities throughout the Miami-Dade and Broward County areas for respiratory distress, dehydration, and other heat-related issues.
Administrators at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center (owned by Larkin Community Hospital) say that Florida Power & Light failed to restore power early enough and that the facility followed an approved emergency plan. Relatives whose loved ones were in the facility, however, blame the nursing staff for not evacuating sooner—and for not notifying authorities that patients were in danger from the heat.
One thing is certain: the nursing home filed a lawsuit in Leon County that disputed the orders from the State of Florida to cut off Medicaid payments to the facility and block new admissions. After that, Justin M. Senior, Secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration, signed an Emergency Suspension Order shutting down the facility.
Gov. Rick Scott stated that he wants nursing homes to have generators and fuel that will allow power to remain on for at least 96 hours. State Senator Lauren Book filed legislation that would require nursing homes to maintain working generators, and said, “We can prevent these things — which never should have happened in the first place — from happening again.”
Negligence and Nursing Homes
Considering the fact that nursing homes are already required to maintain temperatures between 71 and 81 degrees, it’s surprising such a bill hasn’t passed already. It’s also disturbing that a bill proposed in 2006 would have done just that—but industry lobbyists put a stop to that bill in the Florida Senate. And some nursing homes simply can’t be trusted.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had collected below average rating scores and was under criminal investigation. The owner has a history of fraud changes. It’s no surprise, then, that it is being alleged that the nursing home was negligent in its care for patients after losing the air conditioning, according CBS Miami.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite the fact that people over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from heat. And without air conditioning to cool the facility, the heat at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following the power outage undoubtedly as a factor in the health problems that occurred.
America’s elderly population is increasing. This makes problems of negligence in nursing homes one for all Americans to be concerned about.
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