This morning, Levin & Perconti’s own Steven Levin, one of the country’s first nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, was interviewed about the tragic deaths of 8 nursing home residents on HLN’s Across America with Carol Costello. Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida is currently under criminal investigation for the deaths of 8 residents who were found early this morning after spending the days since Hurricane Irma in 90+ degree temperatures during a power outage that left them without air conditioning.
In a press conference later today, Broward County authorities said that 6 residents have been confirmed dead and 115 were evacuated and sent to other facilities, 12 of whom are in critical condition at area hospitals. As the day progressed, the total was reported to have grown to 8 confirmed victims.
David Neal, a reporter for the Miami Herald, told HLN that portable air conditioners and battery-operated fans were being used, but that anyone who lives in hurricane-prone Florida knows that they cannot beat temperatures as high as they’re currently facing.
Neal also told the news network that most facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that house the elderly are now being closely eyed to ensure that they are not leaving residents suffering in sweltering heat.
An unaffiliated hospital located just 50 feet from Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills sent a large team of staff members to the nursing home as soon as news began to break that they were left without power and air conditioning. The employees began helping to evacuate residents, many of whom are suffering from dehydration and other heat-related conditions.
Steve Levin Tells Carol Costello of the Tragedy: “It Is Incomprehensible”
Today on Across America with Carol Costello, Steven Levin was asked by Costello why police would be investigating the deaths. Levin said they were likely wondering how 6 deaths (at the time of the interview) at a nursing home could’ve occurred to “the most vulnerable of our citizens. They are responsible for their care and I assume the police are looking at how this could have happened.”
Host Carol Costello said reports are coming in that say that employees of the nursing home arrived at 7 am this morning to find residents dead and many in distress, leaving everyone questioning why the facility was not staffed overnight. Levin said, “It’s incomprehensible to me. Most nursing homes operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is incomprehensible to me how there could not have been staff in the nursing home overnight. And even if for some strange reason they didn’t have an overnight staff, they were on notice that all kinds of terrible things could happen as a result of this storm, and an interruption of power had to be high on the list. They knew that the residents would be vulnerable, highly vulnerable, if something like this happened. I simply cannot imagine how they did not have the staff there to monitor the situation and protect them.”
When Costello mentioned that many of the residents where helpless and some even incapacitated, Steven Levin responded “The nursing home is responsible for their care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The nursing home, in addition to knowing the problem, should have also known that the ability of first responders to respond might be impaired by the magnitude of what is going on. So how they could leave them vulnerable to something as simple as a power failure or an air conditioning breakdown is inexplicable. I can’t imagine what defense or excuse they could offer for a tragedy of this proportion.”
Levin later told Costello that police are likely asking Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills the simple question of “Where was the staff? How could they not be on notice that they would have a power failure in this type of situation? And what, if any, precautions had they made in the event of a power failure. Forget the power failure. They knew there were going to be extremely high temperatures in this area at this time.”
Manager Previously Charged with Health Care Fraud
Unsurprisingly, the facility has a history of criminal activity, as well as a ‘much below average’ rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The manager of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Jack Michel, previously faced charges of federal and state health care fraud. A lawsuit is also currently pending against the facility for allowing a former resident’s health to deteriorate due to neglect, a situation Miami Herald reporter David Neal described to HLN’s Erica Hill as “a basic nightmare of nursing home care.”
The families of residents, local authorities, and Florida Governor Rick Scott are all demanding answers, with everyone wondering how a facility supposedly dedicated to the care of seniors did not have a contingency plan in place for power outages during hurricane season.
Levin & Perconti will provide updates as the story develops.