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Tragedy After Hurricane Irma

Published on September 16th, 2017

Numerous media outlets have told the story of the nursing home residents at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.  The nursing home failed to have a backup generator or an emergency plan to evacuate the residents after the nursing home lost air-conditioning after Hurricane Irma.  State and federal regulations (and common sense and decency) require nursing home residents to be evacuated if it gets too hot inside

The nursing home appeared to have electricity, but the hurricane had knocked out power in a critical spot: A tree had apparently hit the transformer that powered the cooling system, intensifying the subtropical heat from oppressive to fatal.

By Wednesday of this week, residents needed to be evacuated immediately. Checking the nursing home room by room, the hospital staff found four people who were already dead and nearly 40 others were critical. The workers rushed them to Memorial’s emergency room.  Four were so ill that they died soon after arriving. Rescue workers saved more than 100 residents. Dozens of hospital workers established a command center outside, giving red wristbands to patients with critical, life-threatening conditions.

Florida requires nursing homes to ensure emergency power in a disaster as well as food, water, staffing and 72 hours of supplies. A new federal rule, which takes effect in November, adds that the alternative source of energy must be capable of maintaining safe temperatures.  Florida officials had cited a deficiency related to the building’s generator as recently as February 2016. An inspection called for backup power systems to be “installed, tested and maintained” by March 2016, records show.

The 152-bed nursing home was acquired in 2015 by Larkin Community Hospital, a growing Miami-area network that includes hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Larkin Community were among defendants who paid $15.4 million in 2006 to settle federal and state civil claims that the hospital paid kickbacks to doctors in exchange for patient admissions.

 

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