By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
MIAMI, Florida – On September 10th, hurricane Irma tore through Florida, causing the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center to lose some of its power. The home maintained some electricity, but lost the power to its air conditioning units when a tree knocked out a transformer. Three days after the hurricane hit, the nursing home called 911. Many of their patients had begun exhibiting cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. On September 13th, nearly 150 patients were evacuated. . Of the 150 patients that were evacuated on September 13th, a number of them were treated for heat-related issues. As of September 18th, eight patients had died. That number has since risen to twelve.
Dolores Biamonte, 57, died September 28th according to a statement from the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office. Biamonte was the youngest of the residents who died as a result of the heat exposure. Currently, the dead range in age from 57 – 99. Some of those who died had body temperatures that reached 109.9 degrees Fahrenheit. CNN obtained a video that showed one woman sitting naked in a hallway on what looks like a hospital bed next to fans and spot coolers.
Across the street from the home is one of the largest hospitals in Florida. Investigators want to know why so many patients died even though the hospital was only across the street. The twelve deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills are now being treated as part of a criminal investigation, according to Hollywood police spokesman, Miranda Grossman. Federal and State agencies are also conducting administrative investigations.
Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office reported, even though the nursing home had multiple calls with state authorities, they never reported that the patients were in danger or needed to be evacuated. That report also stated that the state advisors told the nursing home managers multiple times to call 911 if the patients were in danger or needed to be evacuated. The 159-page state report said that was “something [the nursing home] failed to do.”
The Governor said in a statement, “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.” The nursing home said it is “fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to assess what went wrong.” The nursing home has also expressed their sympathy for the families of those who died.
Several families have filed lawsuits. Pedro Franco, whose father, Miguel, died following Irma, said, “this is something that could have been prevented.” Franco is among those who filed a lawsuit against the nursing home. The lawsuit also alleges that the nursing home failed to provide proper care to Pedro’s mother, Cecilia Franco, who survived but was hospitalized in serious conditions.
The State Agency for Health Care Administration revoked the nursing home’s license and shut them down earlier this month. In addition, Governor Scott gave all Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities sixty days to comply with news rules which require them to have generators that can provide backup power for up to four days.
For more information, please see:
CNN – Florida Nursing Home Death Toll Reaches 12 – 29 September 2017
Daily News – Death Toll Reaches 12 at Florida Nursing Home Left Without Power After Hurricane Irma – 29 September 2017
NBC News – Florida Nursing Home Death Toll Rises to Twelve After Hurricane Irma Knocked Out A/C – 29 September 2017
Time – 12th Person Dies After being Taken From Overheated Florida Nursing Home – 29 September 2017
CNN – Video Shows Naked Woman in Sweltering Nursing Home Where 8 Died – 16 September 2017
Author: Sarah Louise Purtill
is a second-year law student at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). In addition to being an Impunity Watch News Reporter, she is an Associate Editor for the Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce. Sarah is the Media Managing Editor for Syracuse Law and Civic Engagement Forum as well as the Treasurer for Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity’s Carmody Chapter at SUCOL. She is also serving her second term as a Class Senator for the Student Bar Association at SUCOL. Sarah graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Honors Program in June of 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Minor in History. Sarah expects to graduate with her Juris Doctor from SUCOL in May of 2019.