Death toll hits 14 for Florida facility, which lays off employees and closes

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The death toll continued to rise Monday, with a 14th patient dying due to terrible heat after Hurricane Irma left a Florida nursing home without air-conditioning.

The heat also helped kill the facility itself. State officials acknowledged over the weekend that The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had laid off 245 employees on Sept. 20. That was shortly after eight deaths were attributed to the lack of air-conditioning and the state had cut off funding.

Local police have since begun a criminal investigation.

Medical examiners are generally linking deaths to the overheated conditions if a person never returned to his or her previous state of health before dying, according to a report in the local Sun Sentinel.

The state first halted new admissions for The Rehabilitation Center's Hollywood Hills, then cut off Medicaid payments and finally pulled The Rehabilitation Center's license.

The provider is suing the state over all three moves against it.

The operator could not have provided earlier notice of the layoffs “due to unforeseen business circumstances that occurred after the impact of Hurricane Irma,” leading to the loss of its license and Medicaid payments, according to a Sept. 27 letter from Carolina Pena, the center's human resources director, to state officials. Providers are normally bound by a 1988 law to give 60 days' notice before closing in order to give residents and employees a chance to prepare.

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