TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) - Police say an eleventh patient has died after being taken from an overheated Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.
Health officials on Wednesday issued an emergency suspension of the license of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a day after the facility filed a lawsuit against the Scott administration for effectively shutting it down.
The license suspension was another step after the state Agency for Health Care Administration last week placed a moratorium on admissions to the nursing home and suspended it from the Medicaid program. The nursing home's lawsuit, filed late Tuesday, challenged the admissions moratorium and the Medicaid cutoff.
Eight of the residents died Sept. 13, three days after Hurricane Irma shut down the nursing home's air-conditioning system. The license suspension alleged that four of the residents had body temperatures of at least 107 degrees when they arrived at a nearby hospital or when they died. Three other elderly residents died this week.
“Respondent (the nursing home) failed to maintain safe conditions in its facility; failed to timely evacuate its facility once conditions were no longer safe for residents; and failed to timely contact `911' during a medical emergency,” said the emergency suspension order, signed by Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior.
But the nursing home pushed back, saying caregivers repeatedly reached out by calling a cell phone number given to the industry by Scott himself and calling state emergency officials and Florida Power & Light.
Kirsten K. Ullman, co-counsel for the nursing home, released a statement Wednesday night that said caregivers "continuously monitored their residents, offered them hydration, and implemented efforts to keep the facility temperatures as comfortable as possible." The statement, in part, also took issue with the assertions that residents suffered from body temperatures of 107 degrees or more.
"It is not known specifically for how long, nor is it known when the AHCA cited temperatures were taken, where they were taken, by whom they were taken, or to which residents they are attributed to. However, before the evacuation, only two of the residents who passed away had elevated temperatures, neither of which were in the critical range," Ullman said.
The deaths of the nursing-home residents have drawn national attention and a criminal investigation. The Scott administration and the nursing home also have released timelines of the events leading up to the deaths, as the two sides try to bolster their arguments.
Hollywood police said that 94-year-old Alice Thomas died Thursday and that they are treating it as part of their criminal investigation of the Rehabilitation Center and its employees. But Ullman implied that the death of Murray wasn't the nursing home's fault.
“Hollywood Hills cares for residents, including residents in hospice care in terminal condition. There has been a report of a resident who was discharged from Hollywood Hills one week ago who has passed away. Hollywood Hills has not been provided any information regarding this former resident's passing. Hollywood Hills sends deepest condolences to the family at this time of loss,” Ullman said in a statement Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, and LeadingAge Florida held a summit Friday to address an emergency rule aimed at requiring nursing homes to have generators to power air-conditioning.
Overall, 145 patients were taken from the home. The dead have ranged from 78 to 99 years old. No one has been charged.
Information provided by The News Service of Florida.