As the criminal investigation into a Florida nursing facility where eight residents died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma continues, some of the focus has shifted to its owner.
Dr. Jack Michel, the listed owner of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, has a history of fraud dating back to 1997. Michel, a licensed doctor, is in question for his facility’s reluctance to evacuate the 100-plus residents at the nursing home despite a lack of air conditioning as the temperatures approached 100 degrees.
Here’s what you need to know about Michel:
1. Questions Are Being Asked as to Why the Center Didn’t Evacuate or Seek Assistance
The death of the eight residents has shocked the community and led to people wondering who’s to blame. The nursing home was one of the millions of customers left without power following Irma, but never requested help until an emergency call September 13.
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.
The causes of death of all the residents are still being investigated, but are believed to be because of the home’s lack of air conditioning.
“Prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility’s air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane,” a statement from the nursing home said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott released a statement that fell short of blaming Michel directly, but said the facility “is responsible for the safety of their patients.” He “demanded” answers to what transpired at the nursing home following Irma.
“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,” Scott wrote in his statement. “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. September 13, and precautionary checks were ordered for Hollywood’s 42 other nursing facilities.
2. Michel Became the President of Larkin Community Hospital Almost 20 Years Ago
Michel has a long history in the healthcare industry dating all the way back to the late 1980s. According to his LinkedIn account, he graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1984 and then attended the university’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. He received his M.D. in 1989 and started a career as a doctor.
Michel began as a resident physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital and did that for three years before he was promoted to the chief medical resident in 1993.
In 1998, he was selected to serve as the president and chairman of the board of Larkin Community Hospital, a 146-bed medical center located in South Miami and gained 100-percent ownership of it in 2006.
In addition to that, he was a board member at Susan G. Komen for the Cure from 2000-2002 and a board member of the Miami-Dade Area Health Education Center from 2000 until 2009.
In October 2012, he became the president of the board of the Miami-Dade Area Health Education Center, a position he still holds. Michel is a licensed doctor in Florida but isn’t currently practicing. His certification is set to expire in 2018.
Over the years, Michel has been the recipient of many awards and recognition for his service to the healthcare industry in South Florida, according to U.S. News & World Report.
3. Michel Was Accused of Receiving Kickbacks From a Hospital & Settled for Over $15 Million
According to federal court records, Michel was accused of receiving kickbacks — along with five others from Larkin Community Hospital — for admitting patients into the Miami medical facility “for unnecessary medical treatment” in 1997. Federal prosecutors in 2004 had claimed some of the patients came from facilities ran by Michel.
At the time, Larkin was owned by Dr. James Desnick, and the government alleged that he paid kickbacks to the physicians in return for admissions. The primary recipient, according to the prosecutors, was Michel. His brother, Dr. George Michel, was also accused of being paid kickbacks.
“The Department of Justice is committed to vigorously litigating cases about conduct that undermines the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Civil Division, said in a statement. “We will not tolerate health care providers who pay kickbacks or perform medically unnecessary treatments on elderly beneficiaries in order to generate Medicare and Medicaid payments.”
According to records, Desnick was also a defendent in a $14 million settlement with the federal government for a similar scheme that ran from 1992 until 2000 in Chicago.
In 2006, Michel and three other defendants in the case settled for $15.4 million.
4. The Nursing Home Previously Received Safety Violations in Regard to Its Generators
The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills has received scrutiny because of a past that shows safety-code violations directly relating to its backup generator.
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 below:
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.
Two years prior during a 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.
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.
According to The Herald, there’s also a current lawsuit pending against the facility due to alleged negligence.
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.”
5. County Officials Approved a $5 Million Grant for Larkin on Behalf of Michel in 2014
In December 2014, officials in Miami-Dade County approved a $5 million tax-funded grant to Larkin Health Science Education Campus, the same organization Michel’s the president of.
“Larkin Community Hospital has launched an ambitious plan to build medical and pharmacy schools near Homestead,” Larkin said in March 2013 in regard to a new project the funds would go toward. “The hospital would own the land and lease it to a new nonprofit university, to ensure that students can apply for favorable student aid.”
The school is a for-profit organization, and the county unanimously approved the grant.