Hurricane Irma’s devastation continues to affect Floridians, now leaving eight people dead at a nursing home.
Hollywood authorities say an issue with an air-conditioning unit at The Rehabilitation Center nursing home led to the evacuation of 115 people and the deaths of eight residents.
Florida’s governor called on first responders Wednesday to check health care facilities statewide in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The nursing home deaths were reported Wednesday in Hollywood three days after Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys and left millions statewide without power.
Three patients were found deceased on the second floor of the facility and several other patients in varying degrees of medical distress were transported. Additional rescue units were called in and remaining residents were evacuated.
As of 9:15 a.m. all patients from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had been removed from the center and were being triaged by paramedics and emergency medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief says three residents died at the scene, and three others died at a nearby hospital. Sharief said there are no details about the cause of the deaths. Several other residents are reported to be in critical condition.
“Most of the patients have been treated for respiratory distress, dehydration, & heat- related issues,” doctors said during a news conference.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said a criminal investigation has been opened up into the deaths of the residents, but did not offer any further details. The building has been sealed off while police investigate. Police are going to the 42 other assisted living facilities in the area to check on those other residents.
The Broward County medical examiner and trauma services released the victims’ names on Wednesday afternoon:
Bobby Owen, 84
Manuel Mario Medieta, 96
Miguel Antonio Franco, 92
Estella Hendricks, 71
Gail Nova, 71
Carolyn Eatherly, 78
Betty Hibbard, 84
Albertina Vega, 99
Video from above the scene shows the buildings residents sitting on wheelchairs outside the nursing home. Multiple stretchers are also on site. Families looking for information can call the hospital hotline at 954-265-1074.
Police say rescue crews were called to the nursing home just after 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. The fuse needed to maintain the air-conditioning unit was broken as Hurricane Irma passed through the area. Florida Light and Power has been called for several days to fix the issue, but crews have not yet been able to come to the home.
“There’s nothing we can do,” employee Dave Long told WPLG-TV. “We’ve been calling and calling. … It just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and I can’t do anything until we get that fuse popped back in.”
The 152-bed rehab center provides short-term rehabilitative services and long-term care, according to its website. The center released a statement saying their hearts go out to the families and friends of those affected. Administrator Jorge Carballo says the facility is cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate.
Gov. Rick Scott said he had directed the state’s health care administration and Department of Children in Families to open an investigation into the deaths.
“If they find out that anyone wasn’t acting in the best interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, Scott said in a statement.
The Florida Health Care Association also released a statement calling the situation “a profound tragedy.” The statement also revealed that 150 of the 700 facilities in the state of Florida still are not operating with full power services.
The temperature in Hollywood for Wednesday is expected to get up to 88 degrees with 74% humidity.
The rehabilitation center released a statement on Wednesday:
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has evacuated this morning due to a prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility’s air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane. Unfortunately, early this morning several patients experienced distress and there were 3 fatalities at the Facility and 3 at the hospital they were transferred to. Facility administration is cooperating fully with
relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected.