Eight people have died so far after a nursing home in Florida lost power and air conditioning during Hurricane Irma, and local police have now launched a criminal investigation into the matter.
According to the facility, everything was working fine as of Tuesday, September 12, 2017, and the facility was using fans and portable air conditioners. That same day, however, police responded to a 911 call and found several elderly patients in declining health.
Unfortunately, when officials first arrived at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida, three people were already dead. At least 158 other residents were evacuated to local hospitals, where five tragically died.
"The suspicion is that these deaths should not have occurred," NPR's Jon Hamilton reported from the scene. “Apparently, the facility lost some, but not all of its power after Hurricane Irma."
Since being lashed by tropical storm-force winds with hurricane gusts on the outer edge of Hurricane Irma, The Florida Health Care Association said Wednesday 150 of 700 nursing home facilities around the state didn’t have full power.
Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez declined to say exactly how hot the building was when officers entered, though he mentioned that it was very hot on the second floor. He also did not say how long the power was out because it’s part of the criminal investigation. A kitchen worker from the center spoke with the Miami Herald, stating the facility didn’t have any air conditioning. However, they were using a generator to cook meals.
Randy Katz, the medical director of emergency services at Memorial Regional Hospital, said hospital officials “mobilized at least 50 to 100 of our employees that left the hospital, ran down the street, pulled all of these patients out of the facility and made sure they got to a safe place." Katz stated the patients who were admitted to the hospital are mostly being treated for heat-related issues.
Jack Michel is listed on The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills’ corporate registration and was previously accused of fraud. Another person with the same name was listed as one of the names of former or current owners of a hospital in Miami that paid a $15.4 million settlement for allegedly carrying out a scheme where the hospital "paid kickbacks to physicians in return for patient admissions."
This isn’t the first time that this nursing home has been in legal trouble. There’s a pending lawsuit alleging negligent behavior, and a previous owner reportedly committed Medicare fraud. It also previously filed for bankruptcy, changed owners, and was given below-average ratings by Medicare inspectors.
Seeking justice for victims of medical malpractice or neglect is the reason we do what we do. Facilities that mistreat their patients should be held accountable for their actions. When we file a lawsuit on behalf of one of our clients, we are not only seeking compensation for the client’s injuries, but also we are making sure the liable parties are held responsible.
The families of those patients who were mistreated should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately, as they may have legal remedies available to them. At Freidin Brown, we have the experience, dedication, and resources to right the wrong that was done to you or your family. We urge you to contact us immediately, as there is a time limitation for when a claim may be brought.