As many areas in the southeastern United States continue the cleanup following Hurricane Irma, a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida is now under police investigation after eight residents died when it was left without electricity.
The Hollywood Police Department said September 13 that eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave., who were left inside of a building without air conditioning died. Police have since opened up a criminal probe and are working with other agencies to conduct a full investigation.
The nursing home, which is located directly across from Memorial REgional Hospital, has been the subject of numerous safety complaints in regard to its generators, and its owner has a history of fraud.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Florida’s Governor Vowed to Find Answers After the Deaths
According to The Miami Herald, the nursing home had been without power since Irma hit the South Florida area days before. It’s currently unknown what exactly led to the deaths of the eight residents, but police say the elderly victims were in a unit without electricity and air conditioning as the temperature continued to rise well into the 90s.
Police said one resident was already dead when they received a call between 4 a.m. and 6:25 a.m. regarding someone at the facility having a heart attack.
Florida Governor Rick Scott released a statement and said he “demanded” answers to what transpired at the nursing home.
“The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is responsible for the safety of their patients,” Scott wrote. “Department of Health officials have been in contact with Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services management and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills over the past three days. Hospital administrators were advised to call 911 if they had any reason to believe that the health or safety of patients was at risk. Tuesday afternoon, the center reported to AHCA that it had power and access to fans and spot coolers provided by Memorial Healthcare.”
The nursing home was evacuated around 7:30 a.m., and precautionary checks were ordered for Hollywood’s 42 other nursing facilities.
2. The Facility Violated Code With Its Emergency Generator & Failed to Provide Documentation of Plans to Fix the Issue
According to records first obtained by STAT News, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has been cited two times for violating federal requirements regarding backup generators in case of an outage.
In February 2016, a federal inspector visited the senior facility unannounced to perform a Life Safety Recertification survey. One of the more notable code violations was a deficiency with the backup generator. The inspector wrote that the facility had “failed to maintain the emergency generator to manufacture and code requirements” in the report.
Read the document laying out the 2016 report above.
When the maintenance administrator at the facility was questioned on the violation and ordered to provide documentation that the backup generator was replaced, he was unable to do so.
“The facility was not able to produce any written documentation to substantiate the emergency generator, which is a temporary generator, had been replaced nor had plans for a permanent generator installation had been submitted as required,” the inspector wrote.
The Rehabilitation Center faced a monetary penalty, a denial of payment for new admissions and/or termination of its Medicare agreement if it didn’t comply.
In March 2016, the facility told the agency that it hired a architectural company to draft blueprints and vowed to “proceed to resolution by submitting application for authorization.”
It wrote how it planned to get the plans within six weeks and obtain the proper permits within three months.
3. Two Years Before That, an Alarm Failed to Function on a Generator
During a December 2014 recertification inspection, the Rehabilitation Center received another violation in regard to its generators. That specific violation was because the remote generator alarm failed to function, meaning administrators wouldn’t know if it failed.
“An interview was conducted at this time with the maintenance director who acknowledged that the remote alarm was not functional. If not maintained, the emergency generator may fail without staff being aware,” the inspection report said.
According to documentation provided to the inspector, administrators at the nursing home said they’d rectify the situation.
On January 11, 2015, they provided documentation and said an outside company was called in to work on the remote generator alarm and hook it up to the portable generator.
4. The Owner of the Facility Has a History of Fraud
The listed owner of the nursing home, Dr. Jack Michel, has a history of fraud, Department of Justice records show.
According to those records, Michel was accused of receiving kickbacks — along with five others — for admitting patients into Larkin Community Hospital in Miami “for unnecessary medical treatment” in 1997. Federal prosecutors had claimed some of the patients came from facilities ran by Michel.
In 2006, Michel and three other defendants in the case settled for $15.4 million.
Michel is a licensed doctor in Florida but isn’t currently practicing. He’s the president of Larkin Health Systems, which also owns the nursing home.
Records show that in 2015, the rehabilitation center sought Chapter 11 protection. High Ridge Management Corporation, which is listed through state records as the landlord of the Hollywood Hills facility, reported $10-50 million in assets and debt that year.
5. There’s a Pending Lawsuit against the Facility
The Rehabilitation Center was built in 1964 with renovations occurring in 1972 and 1989. The nursing home currently has 152 beds for its residents.
“For two generations, we have focused on creating a caring and safe environment,” the description on its website says. “The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is run by a family and caring employees who passionately believe in providing quality care.”
According to The Herald, there’s also a current lawsuit pending against the facility. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, former resident Lillian Fuller, alleges that “the staff and employees failed to develop a proper care plan and properly monitor and supervise the care and treatment provided to (her) in order to prevent her from suffering the development and deterioration of infections and sepsis and suffering the development and deterioration of dehydration.”