The Florida nursing home where eight people died last week following Hurricane Irma called a private phone line for Gov. Rick Scott (R) three times requesting assistance, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
An executive with the hospital that owns The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, FL, reportedly called a phone number distributed by Scott’s office ahead of the storm as “emergency backup.” She said she called three times after the facility’s air conditioning system lost power.
“Repeatedly, I was told that our case was being escalated to the highest level,” Natasha Anderson, chief executive of Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services, told the Post.
No help came to the facility, Anderson said. Management did not consider the lack of air conditioning enough of an emergency to evacuate residents to the hospital, which is located across the street.
“Nurses, doctors, administrators, staff — everyone was doing everything that they could,” Anderson said. “We were waiting and waiting for help that never came.”
Anderson’s story contradicts that of the state’s health department, which said “at no time” did the provider “report that conditions had become dangerous or that the health and safety of their patients was at risk,” according to the Post.
Scott issued an emergency action on Saturday that requires all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state to “obtain ample resources” such as generators and fuel to keep up operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96 hours after a power outage. Providers will have 60 days to comply with the action. Florida State Sen. Lauren Book (D), who represents the county where The Rehabilitation Center is located, also introduced legislation that would require providers to have 5 days of emergency power supply.
In response to Scott’s emergency rule, the Florida Health Care Association and LeadingAge Florida announced a summit for Sept. 22 to discuss emergency preparedness requirements with providers, utility companies, emergency personnel, generator suppliers, regulators and government officials.
The aftermath of the residents’ deaths resulted in the first legal action against The Rehabilitation Center, filed Friday by the family of a 94-year-old resident of the facility. The lawsuit — the first of many expected to be filed over the incident — seeks unspecified damages for “negligence and reckless indifference.”