FL lawmaker to file bill after 8 elderly patients die in steamy Broward County nursing home

State does not recognize nursing homes as priority
Posted at 6:55 PM, Sep 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 08:55:42-04

It's the tragedy of Irma now shocking the entire state.

"Officers are on scene and continuing a criminal investigation,” said City of Hollywood spokesperson Raelin Storey Thursday morning during a press conference.

The city is trying to explain how one of its nursing homes, The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, became a death trap for 8 elderly patients after the facility’s power and AC went out during hurricane Irma Sunday night.

“We're looking into the temperatures inside the facility, the staffing inside the facility and the conditions leading up to these incidents,” said Storey who also confirmed that police had received a warrant to search inside the facility.  

On Thursday, Storey revealed that portable AC units were being used in an attempt to cool the center's roughly 150 patients who were inside days after the storm. But it wasn't enough. 

As investigators search for answers, so are Florida lawmakers like FL Representative Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa).

“I’m shocked and in horror like everybody else and wondering how this could have happened,” he said from his Tampa law office. 

Harrison is on the Florida Health Innovation subcommittee which oversees legislation governing Florida nursing homes.

"Did the system break down somewhere between the nursing home itself and the power company and emergency operations folks? Maybe it did maybe it didn't, we don't know yet," he said.

While counties claim nursing homes fall on priority lists for power restorations, we've discovered the state does not consider nursing homes to be high priority centers like hospitals.

It's a breakdown Harrison says needs to change. Upon learning that the state does not consider nursing homes to be high priority centers for power restoration, Harrison told us he will be immediately filing a bill to make nursing homes a priority just like hospitals. He also said, further analysis of what happened in Broward County could prompt new mandatory evacuations for vulnerable populations even if they are not positioned in a mandatory evacuation zone at the time of an imminent natural disaster.

"It shouldn't be discretionary. It shouldn't be up to administrators in nursing homes to make those judgemental calls. It should be- we know this is coming and it's a week away and you need to be moving these people out,” he said. “Florida is a retirement haven for hundreds of thousands of people that come here specifically for that and we need to make sure they’re going to be safe,” he said.

Wrong was the fact that 5 elderly women and 3 men died in a hot nursing home just yards away from a hospital but it’s what happens next the entire state needs to make sure it gets right.

“We need to make sure this never happens again and if there are people responsible in Hollywood then they need to be brought to justice,” he said.