The Florida nursing home where nine residents died in sweltering heat after Hurricane Irma damaged the facility’s air conditioning had its license permanently suspended Wednesday.
In suspending the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills’s operating license, state regulators cited a lack of timely medical care and trained staff to handle the situation as elderly residents languished in the heat after the storm moved on.
The Hollywood Hills facility will now no longer be allowed to operate as a nursing home or admit patients, officials said.
“As more information has come to light on this egregious situation, this facility absolutely cannot continue to have access to patients,” Justin Senior, secretary of the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), said in a statement. “This facility failed its residents multiple times throughout this horrifying ordeal.”
After the nursing home realized the air conditioning had stopped working on Sept. 10, officials say staff contacted the local electrical provider, set up eight portable air coolers throughout the facility, and put fans in the halls. But it clearly wasn’t enough, and three days later on Wednesday, several residents suffered respiratory or cardiac arrest.
The extent of the tragedy unfolded as emergency medics responded and found some victims with body temperatures ranging from 107 degrees to 109.9 degrees — “far too late to be saved,” the AHCA said.
The average normal body temperature is generally accepted as 98.6 degrees F.
State health regulators also found that the facility “overwhelmingly delayed” calling 911.
Hollywood Hills staff have accused the governor’s office and the AHCA of not responding to their requests for help quickly enough, but regulators noted that the facility never requested emergency assistance, either from 911 or from the Florida Emergency Operations Center.
The patients also were not evacuated to the air-conditioned hospital located across the street, the AHCA added.
Nursing homes in Florida are also required to submit timely medical records of their patients, but the AHCA found that an unidentified Hollywood Hills nurse entered two patients’ official records “after the fact and under dubious circumstances,” thereby misrepresenting the patient’s actual condition.
The report states that a nurse recorded the temperature of one 78-year-old patient with dementia as 101.6 degrees 10 minutes after the hospital across the street had admitted the patient and found their temperature was 108.3. The patient was pronounced dead 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
Another nurse, the AHCA stated, made late entries on the conditions of two patients, ages 70 and 71, on Sept. 14, one day after they had died. Another record stated that one 84-year-old patient was “resting in bed with respirations even and unlabored” on Sept. 14, even though the patient had already died by the time a nurse made the entry, the agency found.
The AHCA’s probe remains ongoing, as does a criminal investigation by the Hollywood Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Representatives for the agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.