Nursing Home Under Criminal Investigation For Deaths Of Patients After Irma

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The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is under criminal investigation after the death of eight patients in the wake of Hurricane Irma. According to Associated Press, the deaths were related to the sweltering heat after the air conditioning in the building was knocked out.

“The situation is unfathomable,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott. Scott called on emergency workers to check on all nursing homes immediately after the patients were found.

While illnesses as simple as the common cold, which traditionally lasts between 48 hours to 14 days, can cause complications in elderly persons, it’s when an elderly patient’s body temperature begins to change that the illness becomes dangerous.

Elderly citizens are extremely susceptible to heat-related illness such as heat stroke, which can occur when the body reaches over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The cause of death of the eight patients is still under investigation, but Hollywood police believe the deaths are related to the building’s loss of power.

However, what makes the event so horribly tragic is the lack of action from the center’s caregivers. According to Associated Press, the nursing home sat directly across the street from the Memorial Regional Hospital, which was fully air-conditioned.

The Broward County police report that the nursing home had called the emergency operations center on Tuesday, September 5 regarding lost power. However, the nursing home didn’t request help when further questioned about medical emergency need.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” said police chief Tom Sanchez. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”

Many elderly Americans suffer from mobility issues and up to 10.2% of those use a cane. Because of this, even in relatively poor weather, an individual trip without assistance could result in a fall or injury. In the flooding and wind of a Category 5 hurricane, there would have been no possibility to leave on one’s own.

On Wednesday, September 6, firefighters responded to three early morning calls and went through the facility where they found three patients dead and others in critical condition. Up to 150 patients were evacuated to Florida hospitals where they were treated for breathing difficulties, dehydration, and other symptoms and illnesses caused by the terrible heat.

According to the Miami Herald, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has a poor regulatory history and its affiliate, Larkin Community Hospital, has poor regulation ratings as well.

County officials have since released documentation reporting the nursing home’s hurricane drill in October 2016. Florida state and federal law require all nursing homes to file emergency and evacuation plans for residents.

Governor Scott plans to include new regulations requiring all nursing homes to have back-up generators installed. The generators must be capable of producing and maintaining a comfortable temperature for up to 96 hours at the least.

The patients who perished in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma ranged from age 70 to 99. Their names are as follows: Carolyn Eatherly, Miguel Antonio Franco, Estella Hendricks, Betty Hibbard, Manual Mario Medieta, Gail Nova, Bobby Owens, and Albertina Vega.

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