A nursing facility in Florida is being accused of the horrendous act of lying about its patients' deaths, making false entries in their medical records and hiding the truth about their tragic demise.
Last week, eight residents — Carolyn Eatherly, 78; Miguel Antonio Franco, 92; Estella Hendricks, 71; Betty Hibbard, 84; Manuel Mario Medieta, 96; Gail Nova, 71; Bobby Owens, 84; and Albertina Vega, 99 — died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The reportedly died because of soaring temperatures after the staff failed to evacuate them following power outages due to Hurricane Irma.
The facility was accused of not alerting 911 or the Florida Department of Health about the alarming situation, as the staff continued to work with cooling units and fans while the elderly patients dehydrated.
After initial investigations, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) discovered how a nurse recorded a patient’s temperature at 101.6, although the patient was actually admitted in the hospital at the time with a recorded temperature of 108.3.
The AHCA also found a “very egregious” case wherein a late entry noted a patient was resting in bed with “respirations even and unlabored,” while in reality, he was already dead.
AHCA Secretary Justin Senior earlier called the events “horrifying” and “unfathomable.”
“The tragic and senseless loss at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center is the subject of a criminal homicide investigation by law enforcement. Let’s be clear — this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities. It is 100 percent the responsibility of healthcare professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients,” the Florida Department of Health stated.
However, the nursing facility claims it called Florida’s governor, asking for help.
According to ABC News, the governor's office initially agreed the calls were made to a cell phone controlled by Gov. Rick Scott's office. However, the official later claimed the nursing home had called the governor's personal cell phone.
The facility reportedly left messages on the phone and was referred to two other agencies, the governor's office said.
“Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned,” said John Tupps, Scott's communications director.
The nursing home also said it had repeatedly called emergency hotline numbers for help.
Kirsten K. Ullman, co-counsel for the Rehabilitation Center, denied all the allegations against the staff, calling the deaths “heartbreaking.” She claimed the actions taken by the facility staff during the crisis were “reasonable.”
“AHCA has released a statement making allegations which simply do not describe the conditions observed by these multiple care givers,” Ullman said.
But their defense will not bring back the lives lost.
At least four lawsuits have been filed by former residents or the victims’ survivors, accusing the staff and administration of failing to evacuate the facility after it lost air conditioning.
Two of the lawsuits blamed the Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, for not taking timely actions at the nursing home during the catastrophic Hurricane Irma.
Police have since sealed the nursing facility.
The facility has been under fire previously as well. It was cited twice in the past three years for violating federal requirements concerning backup power generators.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Jonathan Drake