Police in Hollywood, Florida have opened a criminal investigation after at least eight nursing home residents died on Wednesday because a Hurricane Irma-related power outage left their building without air conditioning.
The incident occurred at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. In response, police are conducting wellness checks at the 42 other nursing homes in the city. First responders evacuated 115 survivors at The Rehabilitation Center to nearby hospitals, including one across the street. Another 18 patients from a nearby behavioral health center were evacuated as well.
According to the National Weather Service, after Tuesday’s high temperature of 90, the overnight high was around 82 degrees with a heat index between 85 and 90. A nursing home spokesperson said that a number of its residents had been having respiratory issues. The nursing center lost power during the storm and had working generators, but a kitchen worker said those were being used to cook and not for air conditioning. According to state records, the nursing home is owned and operated by Larkin Community Hospital:
While a nursing home has been at that location almost 50 years, the Rehabilitation Center’s name and registration are only two years old. Larkin bought what was then called Hollywood Hills Nursing Home and Hollywood Pavilion Hospital in a 2015 bankruptcy auction after fallout from Medicare fraud convictions sunk both facilities.
The incident shows the dangers post-hurricane life can prevent. In Daytona Beach, one person died and three other were hospitalized after ingesting poisonous fumes from a gas generator. Other concerns include ongoing heat, brush-clearing accidents, and fires. Meanwhile, the state estimates that 4.4 million people in the state remain without power.