Florida Nursing Home Says It Called Gov. Rick Scott 36 Hours Before Deaths

CBS

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (CBSNews) — The Florida nursing home where eight patients died days after Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning says it contacted a special number cell phone number Gov. Rick Scott had given them 36 hours before the first death asking for assistance, CBS Miami reports.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office issued a statement to CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede saying all calls to the hotline were returned in a timely fashion.

“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.” said Scott’s communications director John Tupps.

CBS News’ Jonathan Vigliotti reported Thursday (Sept. 14) that records show several 911 calls came from the center starting at 3:30 a.m. But it was nurse Judy From, at a hospital just across the street, who walked over with colleagues to find out for herself what was happening.

“It was a situation where we knew we had to get those patients evacuated,” From told Vigliotti.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills says it lost power during Irma, but utility company Florida Power & Light issued a statement to CBS Miami on Friday saying part of the facility had electricity.

“What we know now is that a portion of the facility did, in fact, have power, that there was a hospital with power across the parking lot from this facility and that the nursing home was required to have a permanently installed, operational generator,” said FPL’s Peter Robbins in a statement.

The eight people are believed to have died from heat-related injuries. Workers at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills said Irma caused the air conditioning to fail Sunday and they struggled to keep residents cool with fans, cold towels and ice, CBS Miami reports.

In a separate statement, the Florida Department of Health’s Mara Gambineri wrote “this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities. It is 100 percent the responsibility of health care professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients.”

Police have launched a criminal investigation.

Scott announced Thursday the Center will no longer receive state Medicaid funds. Scott said the state has had multiple points of contact with the facility before the Wednesday’s deaths. He said at no time did the facility communicate any imminent threats to its patients.

Several other nursing homes were evacuated because of a lack of power or air conditioning.