Provider group: Residents' Irma-related deaths 'not representative' of profession

Share this content:

The deaths of eight nursing home residents after Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning at their facility are “an isolated incident” that shouldn't be seen as characteristic of the state's long-term care sector, representatives of a provider group emphasized Thursday.

Three residents died Wednesday at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, FL, of what is believed to be heat-related causes. The transformer that powers the air conditioning system was knocked out during the natural disaster, causing temperatures inside the building to soar and residents to experience “distress,” officials said. Five others died after being transported to a hospital across the street.

News of the deaths sparked outcry around the world thanks to social media — and a swift response from authorities, including Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and the state's Agency for Health Care Administration.

Local police announced they are conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths. On Thursday, they were granted a search warrant for the facility and said they're still working to sort out some details in the case, such as how high temperatures rose inside the building.

Florida Health Care Association Executive Director Emmett Reed said in a statement that the state's providers and the entire sector were mourning the residents. The group declined to go into details of the incident, citing the ongoing police investigation.

“The investigation into this tragedy and the circumstances that may have contributed to it continues, and it would be inappropriate to comment on details until it concludes,” Reed wrote. “However, it is clear that this is an isolated incident and is not representative of the larger long-term care profession in Florida."

FHCA also noted it is in contact with government officials, utility companies and aid groups to make sure that power returns to any who lost it. As of production deadline for this article, approximately 39 of Florida's nearly 700 facilities (5.6%) were still without power.