Five dead at Florida nursing home

Posted September 17, 2017

More than 100 people were evacuated from a Florida nursing home Wednesday after six people were reported dead at the Hollywood facility, whose residents were suffering from intense heat caused by a lack of electricity after deadly Hurricane Irma swept through.

Three of the deaths happened at the facility and two others happened as the patients arrived at the hospital, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said at a news conference Wednesday.

Lisa Baker, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who teaches a class on disaster preparedness and co-authored the book "Vulnerable Populations and Disasters", said each new catastrophe brings lessons of how to improve planning and response. Hollywood Public Affairs Director Raelin Story said there is no official cause of death yet, but a number were having respiratory issues. Regulations dictate nursing homes and other facilities must have preparation plans in place, but the realities of how older Americans cope with a storm go beyond any piece of paper.

The nursing home had been without air conditioning for days.

A kitchen worker at the center told the Miami Herald that the facility "had power from a generator to cook meals, but no air conditioning".

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~150 of Florida's almost 700 nursing facilities do not have power restored, according to the Florida Health Care Association advocacy group. Three patients were found dead the facility and others were found there "in need of immediate transport", officials said.

In Miami-Dade County, almost 442,000 customers had outages out of 1.1 million customers in total, according to Florida Power & Light.

FPL has said earlier this week that the company prioritizes restoring power to critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communications centers, water treatment plants, transportation and shelter.

In Hollywood, Fla., where temperatures are forecast to reach the 90s through the end of the week, authorities were called early Wednesday to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a nursing home not far from Fort Lauderdale with a troubled history.

"Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable", Scott tweeted.

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"People are telling me different things", she said Wednesday evening.

In addition to severe flooding across Florida and extensive property damage in the Keys, residents faced widespread power outages that initially plunged more than half the state into darkness. Police are looking into why all residents weren't evacuated sooner.

Officials said 18 additional patients from a second adjoining facility were also being relocated due to the investigation, though these patients were "not medically compromised".

Representatives of the for-profit nursing home, which had received a "below average" grade from Medicare's rating system for such facilities, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Carbon monoxide from a generator is also suspected in the death of a man in Miami, while authorities say another dozen people were treated for carbon monoxide-related illnesses on Tuesday in Polk and Brevard counties. Many stores remain closed because of the lack of electricity, meaning people are converging on the relatively few shops and eateries that are open.

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