9 people dead; Florida suspends license of nursing home over Irma deaths

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Florida officials have suspended the license of a nursing home that had nine patients die after Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning.

The Agency for Health Care Administration said Wednesday that it suspended the license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

The agency previously banned the facility from admitting new patients and from receiving Medicaid. The home filed a lawsuit trying to block those orders.

Eight patients died Sept. 13, three days after Irma hit South Florida and knocked out a transformer that powered the home’s air conditioner. A ninth died Tuesday.

The exact cause of death has not been reported, but a number of the 141 residents who were evacuated were treated for heat-related issues. An ongoing criminal investigation is underway.

Nursing home residents sweltered in hazardous conditions after Hurricane Irma, which felled a tree that knocked out the transformer powering the air conditioning system. Many were moved into the hallways, next to fans and spot coolers. One video obtained by CNN shows a naked woman sitting in the hallway on what appears to be a hospital bed.

Despite multiple calls between the nursing home and state authorities, at no time did the nursing home report that their patients were in danger or that they needed to be evacuated, according to a report on Tuesday by Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office. The state advised managers “multiple times” to call 911 if such a situation arose.

“Something they failed to do,” the 159-page report said.

“This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision not to evacuate their patients to one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which is directly across the street,” Scott said in a statement.

Last week, the nursing home expressed its sympathy for the families of the deceased and said it is “fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to assess what went wrong.” A moratorium was imposed on the facility that prevents it from admitting any patients.

“This healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” Scott said. “The more we learn about this, the more concerning the tragedy is.”