A Hollywood nursing home with a troubled history became a sweltering death trap Wednesday when a portable air cooler malfunctioned. Before the day was over, eight residents lay dead.
Memorial Regional Hospital’s emergency room was directly across the street.
Hollywood police have begun a criminal investigation into the deaths at Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills. The Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children & Families have begun their own investigations.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said officers would evaluate all of Hollywood’s 42 other nursing homes. Local governments had begun evacuating elders from other long-term care facilities across South Florida that have lost power in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
On Wednesday night, the healthcare administration halted new admissions to the rehab center, which had a history of poor inspections by state regulators.
All the current residents already had been moved.
In its complaint, the healthcare agency said that on Sept. 10 the rehab center “became aware that its air conditioning equipment had ceased to operate effectively.” The nursing home contacted Florida Power & Light to report the problem, then set up eight portable air coolers throughout the facility, and placed fans in the hallways.
But between 1:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Wednesday, “several residents suffered respiratory arrest or cardiac distress,” the complaint said.
First responders, “as a result of the heat in the building,” essentially ordered the home to evacuate its second floor. Administrators evacuated the entire building.
Healthcare regulators called conditions in the home “a threat to the health, safety or welfare of residents” and “an immediate serious danger to the public health.”
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.