The South Florida nursing home where eight seniors died this week after Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning says it tried to call Gov. Rick Scott’s personal cellphone in a bid to get help.
The governor’s office countered some of the facility executives’ claims about the lead up to the horrific deaths Wednesday morning.
Cellphone video has also emerged showing seniors sweltering in Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, with one elderly patient naked on a hospital bed.
“I am outraged over the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. We must understand their decision to keep patients in danger,” Scott tweeted Saturday. “As ANY health care provider knows to do, if their patients are in danger – they MUST call 911.”
Scott also announced new emergency rules for health care facilities when they lose power.
They will now have to buy generators and enough fuel to run them for four full days, according to a release from his office, and be inspected by the state. Centers will also have to come up with emergency management plans.
Along with the eight deaths, more than 100 people were evacuated from the nursing home and an attached psychiatric hospital.
Executives said they called Florida Power and Light on Sunday — as Irma pummeled the state — to report outages, according to a timeline provided to the Miami Herald and CBS affiliate WFOR. A team went to the facility the next morning.
Natasha Anderson, a hospital executive, on Monday called a cellphone number Scott gave out during daily briefings with hospital officials, according to reports. The call went to voicemail and she left a message.
Nursing home officials also said they spoke with state authorities about the outages.
Then, Anderson called Scott’s phone twice on Tuesday to plead for help from the power company, WFOR and the Miami Herald reported.
Scott’s office countered some of the events, however.
It said all reports were forwarded to the correct agencies, and said the nursing home didn’t mention it’d lost air conditioning at first.
The nursing home had a backup generator, which didn’t power the air conditioner.
“Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned,” John Tupps, Scott’s communications director, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.
Florida’s Department of Health told hospital executives to call 911 if anyone was in distress, the governor’s office told WFOR.
Health department officials also disputed the nursing home’s timeline, telling the Miami Herald it didn’t report a power outage until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“Until 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of (Tuesday), September 12th, the facility reported that they had full power, that heating, cooling systems and generator systems were operational and they had adequate fuel,” spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in a statement to the newspaper.
The nursing home and mental health facility had a backup generator, but it didn’t feed the building’s air conditioning as temperatures soared to the high 80s.
A 34-second cellphone video taken Tuesday night showed a naked woman hunched over on a hospital bed in the hallway.
Carmen Veroy, whose parents lived at the Rehabilitation Center, made the recording and provided it to local NBC affiliate WTVJ.
She also captured her elderly parents, who both have dementia, sitting in their room with a fan running — the window cracked open.
Nursing home officials said they requested coolers from Memorial Regional Hospital across the street. A hospital spokeswoman told the Miami Herald it loaned the coolers, but they instead were placed in the mental hospital.
Federal health inspection reports also showed horrid living conditions well before Irma made landfall in Florida.
Residents sometimes 10 days without a shower, and others were left to fester in soiled diapers, according to the reports obtained by the Miami Herald.
In other instances they were served meals that were against doctor recommendations, and medical records weren’t properly stored, according to the February 2016 and March 2017 reports.
A nursing home official, who spoke anonymously, said the problems were fixed and the air conditioning system never came up in the reports.
“The deficiencies were corrected and the air conditioning systems never had any issues. It was never cited in any reports,” the executive told the Miami Herald.