On Wednesday, a total of eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida were reported, after a tree knocked over by Irma broke the transformer powering the nursing home’s air conditioner.
CNN reports that investigators believe that six of those deaths are directly related to the extreme heat:
“The initial investigation has determined that the facility’s air conditioning system was not fully functional,” the city of Hollywood, Florida, said in a statement. “Portable A/C units were being used in the facility, but the facility was excessively hot.”
The cause of the two other deaths is still under investigation. NPR reports that when authorities arrived on the scene Wednesday, three people were already dead. The Hollywood Police announced that the remaining patients had been evacuated to hospitals:
The Miami-Herald reports that a criminal investigation has been launched, and officers are being sent to check on the 42 other nursing homes in the area. The healthcare workers at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were aware on Sunday that “its air conditioning equipment had ceased to operate effectively.” Portable air conditioners were set up, but were malfunctioning or had insufficient power to operate them:
“At no time did the facility report that conditions had become dangerous or that the health and safety of their patients was at risk,” said Mara K. Gambineri, a health department spokeswoman.
In fact, Gambineri said, the nursing home had made 17 reports to the state through an online database beginning on Sept. 7. “Throughout the course of these reports, the facility never requested any assistance or reported the need for evacuations.”
The facility has been given a “below average” rating by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, due to numerous staffing, fire safety and health inspections violations in the past. Their “error rate” for giving patients the wrong medical dosages was at 25 percent—the average is about five percent. Residents also often complained about the infrequency and lateness of their meals. The home was sued twice in 2016 over the deaths of two patients who allegedly died “from infection and dehydration — and the other from pressure sores.”
Governor Rick Scott tweeted that he will be “demanding answers” as to how the nursing home residents were neglected in the aftermath of the storm: