The story of the death of 8 residents at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the wake of Hurricane Irma has saddened our country. How could a nursing home lose power and leave residents to suffer in over 90 degree temperatures with just a few portable air conditioning units? Before news broke that the facility had a laundry list of violations and lawsuits, Levin & Perconti’s own Steven Levin was interviewed on national news channel HLN about the magnitude of the situation (watch his interview here). Steven Levin told HLN’s Carol Costello “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.”
Now, sadness is giving way to anger as news outlets have reported that the nursing home has a long history of violations, lawsuits accusing the facility of abuse and neglect, as well as prior citations for a faulty generator. The lack of a backup plan for a power outage at the nursing home speaks to the facility’s utter disregard for the health and safety of their residents.
Florida Senator Gary Farmer told ABC 10 that the state needs to strengthen the laws for nursing homes. According to Farmer, “We’ve insulated these nursing homes through deregulation in this state, and that’s how things like this can happen.” Stories of nursing home abuse and neglect and health and safety citations frequently go unknown by the public for many reasons. Nursing homes can be quick to settle lawsuits to keep them out of the public eye, and citations are only found by residents, their loved ones, and the public when they know exactly where to search. Citations can be cast aside by remedying the problem and paying a fine to the state Department of Health or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It was only after the 8 deaths that the state, under Governor Rick Scott’s order, shut down the nursing home.