A disheartening news story made headlines in the New York Times yesterday after 8 nursing home residents were found dead in a Hollywood, Florida facility that was overwhelmingly hot without a working air conditioning system. The nursing home’s AC system was knocked out during Hurricane Irma and had not been fixed yet. The facility did have working power otherwise, however, which has raised several questions among city officials and the community.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills started sending residents to the nearest hospital early in the morning when residents began reaching critical health conditions. After the hospital received 3 residents from the same home, the staff members decided to investigate the nursing home personally and found conditions that were unsettling. The facility was reported as being almost unbearably hot. They went room to room, checking on residents—and found three dead in their beds.
The staff at Memorial Regional Hospital leapt into action and set up a triage outside the facility to relocate residents to a cooler environment. Rescue units carried more than 100 residents outside. More than 40 needed to be hospitalized for difficulties breathing. 4 were so sick they died at the hospital. An 8th deceased resident was found later who had been delivered to a mortuary.
Conditions in Hollywood, Florida on Wednesday were uncomfortably warm, peaking at about 92 subtropical degrees and humid. The nursing home’s air conditioning unit had not been fixed yet due to actions that needed to be taken by Florida Power & Light. The power company understandably had a lot on its plate after Hurricane Irma, but anyone who is reading this article and/or witnessed the situation realizes that these deaths could have been prevented had the residents been evacuated.
The Hollywood Police Department has opened a criminal investigation surrounding the eight deaths. During a moratorium held regarding the incident, most questions were left unanswered. While it’s required for most Florida nursing homes to keep temperatures between 71 and 81 degrees, facilities certified before 1990 do not have to keep temperatures between that range. They must, however, still keep temperatures that are both “safe and comfortable”. It’s apparent that this facility was neither.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to protect their residents. While the staff took the correct first steps during this situation by attempting to get the AC unit fixed as quickly as possible, when those efforts failed, they could have taken steps to evacuate the facility. Staff members reportedly tried to set up alternative cooling methods instead.
As part of the investigation, the police will determine an exact cause of death for the deceased residents. The investigation team has not ruled out other possible causes of death besides heat exhaustion.
If someone you love was in a similar situation in a nursing home or you believe they may be getting abused or neglected in a long term care facility in Kentucky or elsewhere, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Thomas Law Offices today. Our Louisville nursing home abuse lawyers work hard to ensure our clients can recover—and that facilities don’t get away with harming residents in any way.