State suspends license, accuses SNF staff of cover-up as facility's post-Irma death toll rises to 10

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The suspension order was handed down Wednesday by Florida health officials.
The suspension order was handed down Wednesday by Florida health officials.

Florida officials on Wednesday suspended the license of a nursing home where residents died following Hurricane Irma, claiming staff made late entries to residents' records in an attempt to alter the image of what really happened.

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration issued an emergency suspension order for The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, FL. Authorities cited information that found staff “overwhelmingly delayed” calling 911 and evacuating residents after the building lost air conditioning.

The agency's notice also stated that nursing staff made “late entries” to residents' records hours after checking in on them that “portray an inaccurate depiction of the situation.” One “very egregious” entry claimed a resident was resting in bed with “even and unlabored” respirations when, in fact, the resident had already died before the entry was made, AHCA said. In another case, an entry documented a resident's temperature being taken when the resident already had been moved to the hospital.

“No amount of emergency preparedness could have prevented the gross medical and criminal recklessness that occurred at this facility,” AHCA Secretary Justin Senior said.

Kirsten Ullman, co-counsel for the facility, told the Huffington Post that the facility denies the allegations made in AHCA's order, especially that the late entries were “somehow being indicative of something.”

“Documentation, many times, is done at the end of a shift,” Ullman said. “The facility was evacuated 45 minutes before the end of shift. Accordingly, certain entries had yet to be made and were designated for the reader as ‘late entries.' Late entries document care given during the shift, but which was not documented due to circumstances ― in this case ― beyond control.”

The storm-related facility death toll rose to 10 residents on Wednesday with the passing of 94-year-old Martha Murray. The number of legal actions taken against The Rehabilitation Center also has grown, with at least four lawsuits filed as of production deadline. Two of those suits also blame Florida Power & Light for not making the facility a priority for power restoration after the hurricane passed through.