(Photo courtesy: CBS Newspath)
A criminal investigation is underway after eight people died from sweltering heat post Irma in a nursing home in Hollywood. The State has temporarily shutdown the nursing home but also raising fears about the safety of Florida’s 4 million senior citizens amid power outages that could last for days.
Authorities evacuated 145 patients from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, and 18 others from a behavioral wing near the hospital and in
addition to the dead many more are in critical condition.
Paramedics and fire-rescue crews were called to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills shortly after 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and evacuated the suffering residents. Many of them could be seen sitting in wheelchairs outside the nursing home next to the hospital.
Officials say that three of the deaths happened at the facility and three others died after they were taken to nearby Memorial Regional Hospital.
Police have been granted a search warrant and are at the home continuing the investigation. Yesterday Governor Rick Scott directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to place an emergency moratorium on the facility to prevent it from taking in new patients. Police were working with the families of the evacuated patients so they could recover some personal items from the facility.
The Office of the Broward Medical Examiner and Trauma Services has released the names of the eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood who have died.
The victims have been identified as:
Bobby Owens, 84
Manuel Mario Medieta, 96
Miguel Antonio Franco, 92
Estella Hendricks, 71
Gail Nova, 71
Carolyn Eatherly, 78
Betty Hibbard, 84
Albertina Vega, 99
The causes of death are yet to be determined. Governor Rick Scott has announced the Florida Department of Children of Families and the Agency for Health Care Administration have begun an investigation.
In the wake of the deaths, officers are being deployed to every nursing home in Hollywood to carry out welfare checks.
Like many places in South Florida, the nursing home has been without power since being blasted by hurricane force winds on the edge of Irma.
Kitchen worker Jean Lindor told the Miami Herald that the center had power via a generator to cook but no air conditioning.
WPLG reports that the fuse in the air conditioning unit blew during Irma disabling it despite the generator.
The air conditioning repairman tells WPLG that he is extremely frustrated and at mercy of FPL to fix fuse needed to cool unit.
It is not clear why the repairman could not fix the fuse himself.
Hollywood police Chief Tomas Sanchez says as a result of the six dead, “We’re conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths.”
The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.
The Nursing Home Administrator for the center, Jorge Carballo, released a statement on the deaths Wednesday evening:
“The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills expresses its deepest sympathy to the family members of the residents who passed away following a prolonged outage of our air conditioning system due to Hurricane Irma. All other residents have been moved to Memorial Regional Hospital, where our medical and nursing staff continues to care for them.
“The Center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared for the impact of Hurricane Irma. We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators. While our Center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The Center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.
“In compliance with state regulations, the Center did have a generator on standby in the event it would be needed to power life safety systems. The Center also had seven days of food, water, ice and other supplies, including gas for the generator. Additionally, when the transformer powering the A/C went down, staff set up mobile cooling units and fans to cool the facility. Our staff continually checked on our residents’ well-being-our most important concern-to ensure they were hydrated and as comfortable as possible.
“We are devastated by these losses. We are fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to assess what went wrong and to ensure our other residents are cared for.”