A Florida nursing home was left without air conditioning after the power was knocked out by Hurricane Irma and the following days of sweltering heat may have contributed to the death of these eight patients. Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the cause of death for these elderly residents of the nursing home.
Three of the deceased residents died at the facility and another three patients died at a nearby hospital when they were evacuated with the remainder of the patients living there. Another death was recorded later in the day on Wednesday, according to the New York Times in an update.
Authorities also learned of a patient’s death earlier in the day on Wednesday at the facility. That person had been excluded from the original count, as the elderly person was taken right to the funeral home. As of now, this brings the total dead to eight in this horrific tragedy, reports Craig T. Mallak, who is the chief of the Broward County Medical Examiner and Trauma Services.
The tragedy unfolded in the early hours of Wednesday morning as these nursing home residents were evacuated, with latest reports indicating some of these elderly patients are in critical condition.
According to live coverage Wednesday afternoon on Fox News, there were 115 residents of the facility who were evacuated. The elderly were suffering from “heat related injuries,” and the extreme heat caused dehydration among these Hollywood, Florida, nursing home patients.
The local news, Sun Sentinel, reports the name of the nursing home is The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and it’s not clear for just how long the facility was without power. Three of the eight deceased elderly patients were identified as Estella Hendricks, 71, Gail Nova, 71, and Carolyn Eatherly, 78.
Fox News said that police and first responders commented on the heat inside the building, which was especially the case on the second floor of the facility. According to the Sun Sentinel, the nursing home does have a backup generator, but it did not operate the air conditioning unit.
Reports indicate this was one mass evacuation at the facility, which is located at 1200 N.E. 35 Ave. Not all of their the residents’ conditions were known as of yet.
Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said in a statement to the press, “We’re conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths that occurred here.” The spokesperson for the facility, Raelin Storey, talked to the press and explained what they saw inside this nursing home. Storey said that “there were a number of people in respiratory distress.”
Another nearby hospital, the Larkin Community Hospital, was also evacuating their residents from their behavioral unit. There were 18 patients in all in that unit. One of the major concerns after Irma blasted through Florida was the lack of power causing hardships without air conditioning for the elderly and those vulnerable to the heat.
According to ABC 10 local news, it was just after 4 a.m. on Wednesday when the fire-rescue crews were called to The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. It was a major evacuation for both the patients and staff and a major event at the hospitals the patients were transported to.
ABC reports, Dr. Randy Katz, who is the medical director at Memorial Regional Hospital, said that his staff “quickly identified some issues inside of the facility.” Medical staff from the hospital went to help the first responders evaluate and evacuate the many patients in the nursing home who appeared to be suffering from heat-related issues.
Katz also said that the majority of the patients needed treatment for heat related ailments, which include “respiratory distress, dehydration, and heat-related issues.”
The Florida Power & Light Compay was called by Dave Long, who is an employee with Airstron, the people in charge of repairing the AC. Their hands were tied until the power company could get to the nursing home and install some type of a fuse that “popped out” during Irma. Long said on Wednesday that it was now a few days later and they still hadn’t shown up.
The vice president and chief communications officer for the Florida Power & Light Company, Ron Gould, said they met with Broward County Officials back in March to identify the “top-tier infrastructure” facilities if a major event such as Irma knocked out the power for a massive area.
These places would be the first in line to get their attention when it came to getting the power up and running again. Gould said that this nursing home was not identified as one of those top-tier facilities. The hospital where the patients were transferred is a top-tier facility, which is listed as such for their emergency procedures.
Besides law enforcement opening a criminal investigation into these deaths, Governor Rick Scott said as follows.
“I am going to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place. Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable.”
Scott added that when this investigation is concluded and if it finds “that anyone wasn’t acting in the best interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
A hotline for families of these evacuated patients has been established at the Memorial Healthcare Systems. The number is 954-265-1074.
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