Red Flags Raised Amid Nursing Home Tragedy

Florida Governor Rick Scott at the West Palm Beach Emergency Operations Center before Hurricane Irma. (Public domain photo by Jesse Romimora.)

Eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on September 13, 2017, sparked an outcry from Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and attracted the attention of Governor Rick Scott, R-Fla., as calls for legislation to prevent similar deaths mount.

“These deaths may have been preventable. It is an abomination that the patients were not moved mere yards away to Memorial Regional Hospital immediately after the air conditioning stopped working,” said Wilson in a statement on September 14.

Scott reacted similarly to Wilson, calling the event “unfathomable.”

The incident at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is not unique, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told The Hill, “the nursing home has been cited repeatedly for safety and other violations.”

Scott said “this healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” in a statement following the tragedy and claimed the loss of air conditioning was not reported to the state until it was too late.

CBS12 reported that the site temporarily evacuated over a hundred patients to other facilities before being forced the state forced the nursing home to close.

Approximately a dozen remained in emergency care in the days following the event, and as of now, the death toll has grown to 14, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Wilson said that she is seeking to amend the Stafford Disaster Relief Emergency Assistance Act to place hospitals and nursing homes in higher regard during a disaster response.

Additionally, Wilson will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to facilitate efficient restoration of hospitals and nursing homes in the wake of a disaster, according to the Miami Herald.

Wilson also plans to bring forth new legislation requiring assisted living facilities to be equipped with backup generators or power sources in order to continue receiving federal funds.

No legislation has yet been introduced into the House of Representatives where Wilson represents District 24.

Wilson did organize a town hall meeting on September 19, to form a ‘task force’ comprised of “elected officials, care center administrators, advocates and other influencers”, in order to begin tackling this issue, according to a press release regarding the event.

By November 15, 2017, all nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to purchase a generator, due to a shift in emergency rules enacted by the governor following Hurricane Irma and the tragedy at Hollywood Hills.

According to the Miami Herald, on September 11, the facility reported having “issues involving air conditioning” but did not report that there was a safety risk involved.

Late on September 12, Jorge Carballo said the chiller was malfunctioning; however, Carballo did not report that this failure in the system was adversely affecting patients.

In the early hours of the next day, September 13, patients were “discovered deceased within the facility.”

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