As Hurricane Irma loomed off the coast of Florida in the first week of September, state officials warned the public to be ready. Now, a South Florida nursing home is accused of failing to do just that, and also of a serious breach in patient care that led to the deaths of 10 elderly, vulnerable residents who went days without power in the sweltering heat. Several of those who died had body temperatures between 107 and 109 degrees.
The deaths have sparked outrage, a criminal investigation and at least a handful of lawsuits from victims or relatives of those who died, alleging negligence.
According to The Miami Herald, plaintiffs allege their loved ones were victims of a facility that not only failed to prepare for the possibility of no power, but also of not evacuating when conditions became more serious. The nursing home lacked power for three whole days, and administrators said they repeatedly tried calling the governor’s office for help. But meanwhile, directly across the street, was a fully-functional, air conditioned hospital.
When the calls started coming in to 911 about residents overheating, staffers from the hospital rushed over on foot to begin administering care to the patients.
The Hollywood Hills nursing home is owned by a doctor who is also president of the Larkin Community Hospital located in South Miami.
In addition to the nursing home, one plaintiff alleges Florida Power & Light is liable as well. A wrongful death attorney for one of the plaintiffs alleged that while the administrators at the nursing home failed to ensure the safety of its patients, FPL failed to prioritize the power restoration for nursing homes in the area. Further, the organization is accused of failing to meet basic standards in its maintenance infrastructure.
After the deaths, the remaining 141 patients were evacuated from the site.
FPL responded with a statement saying that part of the nursing home facility did have power, and reiterating that the hospital is just a few steps away. FPL said the nursing home was given priority, but other sites – such as hospitals and 911 call centers – had even higher priority.
The law requires nursing homes to have permanently-installed generators on site. However, the generator on this site was only used to power lights, appliances and medical devices – not air conditioning or fans. There was a separate transformer that powered the air conditioning, and it was not backed up by a generator. This was the transformer that was hit when Hurricane Irma made landfall.
Although the medical examiner in Broward County has yet to issue any official cause of death for the 10 residents who died, police and other first responders reported responding to calls at the nursing home around 3 a.m. for issues like cardiac arrest and respiratory trouble. As noted by a nursing home neglect attorney, these are both symptoms of dehydration and heat stroke. First responders took note of the fact that it was extremely hot inside the center.
Many of those treated had dangerously high body temperatures.
Nursing homes may not be able to control the weather, but they do have a duty to be ready for it. Failure to do so may be negligence warranting legal action.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Two more lawsuits say Hollywood nursing home and FPL share responsibility for deaths, Sept. 19, 2017, By Daniel Chang, Miami Herald
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Lawsuit: Nursing Home Bedsore Proves Fatal for Patient, Sept. 21, 2017, Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog