In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, 8 residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died due to a lack of air conditioning caused by wide-spread power outage.
In the days immediately following the incident, owners of the facility came under intense fire from the media and patient relatives. They were blamed for not properly evacuating the facility in Irma’s wake.
For three days, the nursing home’s staff tried to keep its patients hydrated and alive through the intense heat. During that time, the center alleges, they called Governor Rick Scott’s emergency hotline for help. Help never arrived, and the facility states that their calls were “ignored” by the Scott administration.
According to CBS4 reporter Jim Defede, the facility called Florida Power & Light at 3:49pm Sunday after a transformer that powered the facility’s electricity was crushed by a falling tree. FPL said that they would be there “first thing in the morning”, then the “afternoon”, and finally no one came.
The following day, the facility called the Governor’s hotline.
“At 5:34 p.m. (the Rehabilitation Center) called the governor and wasn’t able to get a response,” Defede said.
The next day, they called twice. No response. FPL still had not shown up. The facility grew warmer still.
FPL’s response stated the following:
“While this nursing home was given a level of priority, in working with (Broward) county officials, other critical facilities, such as hospitals and 911 centers, were identified as higher priorities…”
“What makes something a higher priority?” Defede asked.
Scott’s office issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying:
“Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Adminstration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.”
The Florida Department of Health echoed the Governor’s statement, but added:
“[It is] 100 percent the responsibility of health care professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients. Let’s be clear — this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals (Memorial Regional Hospital), which never lost power and had fully operating facilities. The tragic and senseless loss at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center is the subject of a criminal homicide investigation by law enforcement.”
The Hollywood Police Department opened a criminal investigation into the deaths.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for Governor, was quick to decry Scott’s response:
“Today’s report (Scott) and his office gave out a special priority phone line — then failed to act when they received distress calls — are highly alarming,” his statement read, “I am calling for a full independent investigation into this matter. The investigators must have full access to all public records and transcripts of communications, meetings, and conference calls between the Governor, his Office, and healthcare facilities in preparing for Hurricane Irma.”
On Saturday morning, Gov. Scott announced new rules for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, saying that they must have generators capable of powering the A/C unit for longer than 96 hours.