The death toll at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has now reached 12. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the facility lost power and air conditioning, leaving residents to suffer in sweltering heat for days. Although the facility had notified Florida Power & Light that they needed their power restored and later contacted state authorities to ask them to escalate their request, at no point did the staff at the facility say that the health of their residents was in danger, nor did they make any attempts to transport visibly ill patients less than 50 feet across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital.
Once authorities were notified, a criminal investigation was launched and Governor Rick Scott stripped them of the ability to receive reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid, ensuring that they would not be able to operate. Soon after, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) revoked the nursing home’s operating license. Just before the FAHCA revoked their license, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit asking that they be able to go back to business as usual, saying that “There is no longer any emergency condition at the nursing home specifically or in the state of Florida generally…all electrical power for central air conditioning to Hollywood Hills was fully restored.”
The news of a lawsuit filed by the nursing home is shocking to the loved ones of those who died, as well as those whose loved ones fared better, but also suffered greatly from the grave conditions. The 12th and youngest victim passed away today at just 57 years old. The other 11 victims range in age from 70 to 99 years old. Several families have filed lawsuits against the facility, alleging neglect and questioning why high body temperatures, respiratory distress, fatigue, and other obvious symptoms from extreme heat went untreated and unreported, especially given the proximity of a major hospital directly across the street.
The license revocation order issued by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration stated that there were “late entries into patients’ medical records,” and that these entries “were made “under dubious circumstances” hours after a nurse visited the patients.”
The Sun-Sentinel reported that the nursing home records for one victim, Carolyn Eatherly, showed that she had a temperature at of 101.6 at 4:42 a.m. on September 13th. This ‘fact’ is extremely disturbing considering that she had been admitted 9 minutes earlier to Memorial Regional Hospital with a temperature of 108.3 degrees. She died within 30 minutes of arrival.
Other patient records indicated significantly lower temperatures than were found upon transfer to the hospital and many of those entries were entered into the residents’ records hours after they were allegedly taken.
Same Insufficient Care…Different Name
The criminal case is still pending and the number of lawsuits against the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is mounting. In response to an NY Daily News article about the deaths at the facility, one commenter named Jerry wrote “Let me guess, private for profit facility. Medical staff, probably one registered nurse, all others minimum wage help. This is what happens when you have for profit care centers. Now after 9 lawsuits they file bankrupcy and start all over again. Same people, different name.”
Jerry’s comment holds true insight into the world of for-profit nursing homes and the ability to easily hide the truth. Tragedies such as nursing home abuse and neglect often go unknown by the public and fellow residents of the facility. Nursing homes can employ several tactics to hide unsavory incidents, past lawsuits, and criminal charges against past employees, residents, or administrators. What Jerry did not mention in his comment is that bankruptcy isn’t even necessary for a facility to change its name. In 2015, a Texas nursing home, formerly known as Lexington Place Nursing and Rehabilitation, changed its name to Brookhollow Heights Transitional Care Center. Although residents, loved ones, and the public were given the phony answer that the name change better represented the area in which the facility was located, the truth is that changing the name allowed them to hide the fact that a resident was convicted of capital murder for beating two fellow residents to death just a year before. Searching Nursing Home Compare, the nursing home rating site run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would not contain data related to the nursing home prior to the name change, essentially allowing them to bury the truth from all potential residents and their loved ones. The state of Texas allowed this name change, despite issuing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of safety and health citations against the facility, as well as having full knowledge of the murder charge against the resident.
We want to believe that those promising to offer best-in-class care for our loved ones truly have a passion and commitment for the care of the elderly. However, we have been shown time and time again that greed reigns supreme over doing the right thing. If you or someone you love has been subjected to poor care of any kind at a nursing home, they are the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect. Regulating agencies allow nursing homes with past violations to continue to operate and using the law is your only recourse in fighting back and securing justice for your loved one.
For over 25 years, the Chicago, Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin and Perconti have fought for your loved ones. No one, regardless of age, mental capability, race, gender or income deserves to have their dignity shattered. If you suspect abuse or neglect of a loved one, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced nursing home lawyers.