Florida Officials open Criminal Probe into Nursing Home Deaths following Hurricane Irma
Florida officials said Wednesday they have opened criminal probe into how and why six residents of a Hollywood, Florida nursing home died following devastation from Hurricane Irma.
Officials said the deaths may be due to loss of air conditioning following the arrival of Irma this week but Hollywood, FL Police Chief, Tomas Sanchez said it is important to ascertain the causes of death.
“We are conducting a criminal investigation (and) not ruling anything out at this time,” Sanchez said at a press conference earlier today.
Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the facility where the deaths occurred confirmed they had a “prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility’s air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane.”
Florida governor Rick Scott said he will demand an aggressive and thorough investigation.
“I am absolutely heartbroken to learn of news reports of the deaths of multiple individuals in a nursing home in Broward County. Protecting the lives of Floridians is my top priority and that’s why we have worked all week to help Floridians prepare and respond to Hurricane Irma,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement.
“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. Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor health,” Gov. Scott added.
Temperatures in Hollywood reached the mid 90s this week.
Gov. Scott confirmed the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families have launched investigations.
“The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is responsible for the safety of their patients. Department of Health officials have been in contact with Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services management and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills over the past three days,” Scott said.
He added that the facility assured state officials yesterday that it had power and access to fans and spot coolers.
“AHCA and DCF have launched investigations. If they find that this facility was not meeting the state’s high standards of care, they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. These agencies will have investigators on site at the facility today,” Gov. Scott said.
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said they were disappointed that something so tragic could happen in their city.
“We’re certainly all very disappointed that something like this could’ve taken place,” Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy told CNN. “Unfortunately, emergency services were called obviously too late.”
According to city officials, three residents died at the nursing home and three others died after being evacuated to Memorial Healthcare System facilities which is just yards away from the nursing facility.
Firefighters evacuated 115 other residents from the nursing home and Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Story said there were “a number of critical patients.”
“Most of the patients have been treated for respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues,” Dr. Randy Katz, the medical director of Memorial Regional’s emergency department, said at a press conference earlier today.
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