As Gov. Scott, nursing home point fingers, death toll climbs to 9 – Miami Herald
Four days after the owners of a Hollywood nursing home released a detailed time line casting blame for the deaths of eight elders on Florida health administrators and a local utility, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration issued a time line of its own — declaring that the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills “failed to do their basic duty to protect life.”
The time line, and a release of 159 pages of records, fueled an ongoing finger-pointing war between the nursing home and Scott, who was himself a healthcare executive before running for office.
As the parties fought, the death toll rose: Late Tuesday, the Hollywood Police Department reported that a ninth resident from the nursing home, identified as 93-year-old Carlos Canal, had died.
Canal joined eight others who perished the morning of Sept. 13, when a partial power outage, combined with the failure of portable air coolers, turned the home into a deadly hothouse. The deaths are the subject of a criminal investigation by the Hollywood Police Department, together with administrative reviews by two state agencies, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children & Families.
The nursing home is adjacent to a private psychiatric facility, Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services, and the two are affiliated with a troubled South Miami hospital called Larkin Community Hospital. The nursing home and psychiatric facility sit across a parking lot from Memorial Regional Hospital, to which many of the 142 residents were evacuated after several began to succumb to the heat.
“No amount of finger pointing by the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Facility … will hide the fact that this healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” Scott said in a prepared statement late Tuesday. “This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision to not evacuate their patients to one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which is directly across the street.
“The more we learn about this, the more concerning this tragedy is. Through the investigation, we need to understand why the facility made the decision to put patients in danger, whether they were adequately staffed, where they placed cooling devices and how often they checked in on their patients.”
On Tuesday, nursing home owners challenged efforts by the governor and health regulators to shut the home down.
Calling the home “devastated by the lives lost,” Hollywood Hills asked a judge in Tallahassee to prevent health regulators from going forward with a halt to all new admissions, and a suspension of the rehab center’s reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid, federal insurance programs for elderly and poor people. Together, the insurers are the lifeblood of most long-term care facilities.
Operators of the nursing home could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
The tragedy prompted the governor to impose emergency rules last week requiring all nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Florida to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power outage.
Related: Nursing homes used to Florida regulators’ soft touch scramble to meet a hard deadline
Scott’s time line begins on Sept. 5, when the rehab center, along with every other facility in the state, was told to begin updating health regulators on efforts to prepare for the potentially disastrous Hurricane Irma in a digital database called “FL Health STAT.” All hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were to provide updates on their efforts twice daily.
Three days later, the governor’s time line says, administrators at the rehab center participated in a conference call on hurricane preparedness hosted by Scott, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior and the state’s surgeon general, Celeste Philip. The home “did not report any issues,” the time line says. On Saturday, Sept. 9, the rehab center made one report to the state’s database, at 3:19 p.m. The update said the home was operational, and no concerns were reported.
Irma made landfall on Sunday. At 12 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., the home “did not report any changes,” the governor’s office says, and “did not report any issues” on a conference call with Scott and health administrators at 2:30 p.m.
Thirty minutes later, the nursing home said in its earlier time line, the home’s air conditioning system lost power.
“This was not reported to the state,” the governor’s office wrote in response.
At 6:51 p.m. Sunday night, the home reported to the database “that everything was operational, including heating and cooling,” the state’s time line said.