News sources are reporting that the owner of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood, FL nursing home who lost at least 12 residents after letting them suffer for days in sweltering heat, had sought court approval to be reimbursed for air conditioning repairs on the building in 2015. According to the lawsuit in 2015, Dr. Jack Michel was taking ownership of the nursing home from someone who was facing foreclosure on the property. Dr. Michel argued that buying a new generator and replacing failing air conditioning chillers was essential to protecting the safety of the nursing home residents and that going without air in the Florida heat would be a “catastrophe” that would force the nursing home “to be shut down and the patients evacuated.” Although the judge did not agree to reimburse Dr. Michel from the money recovered during the previous owner’s foreclosure proceedings, Dr. Michel went ahead with the purchase of the building and paid to replace the cooling tower.
Greed Over Safety
It was September of this year when Hurricane Irma battered Florida’s southeast coast, including Broward County, the area in which the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is located. The nursing home went without air conditioning for 5 days before 911 calls from staff tipped off authorities and a neighboring hospital that something was terribly wrong. Lawsuits filed by the loved ones of several victims are pending in the wake of the devastation and have revealed that staff had used only fans and portable air conditioning units to cool the facility. The public has also learned that nursing home staff had tried to cover their missteps by falsely charting on patients, even after they had finally been transported to neighborhood hospitals and had died.
In addition to Dr. Michel’s 2015 admission that lack of air conditioning would result in serious circumstances, the family of Clarice Damas told the press that the facility accepted her as a transfer patient from a local hospital on September 11, 2017, exactly one day after the air conditioning broke. According to her family, they asked when the air conditioning would be restored and staff told them that they were “working on it” and that they were unable to transfer her anywhere else because all area hospitals were currently at capacity.
While the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has attempted to point fingers at Florida Power & Light and Broward County for failing to restore their power, the truth is that the owner and staff sat on a deadly situation for days on end, fearful that calling 911 and having patients transported to local hospitals would result in the evacuation of all 141 residents. Every day that a bed sat empty at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills would have resulted in a significant loss of income for Dr. Jack Michel, the only possible explanation as to why he did not order evacuation of residents as temperatures climbed to dangerous levels in the hours following the power loss. According to attorneys for the nursing home, they also plan to argue that temperatures in the elderly can spike in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, and that evacuating them sooner might not have made any difference. For those families who lost loved ones in the tragedy, we’re sure they’d argue that every second they were left to suffer in the heat counted.
See Related Posts:
- Steven Levin HLN Interview: 8 Nursing Home Residents Dead in Florida After Hurricane Irma Leaves Them Without Power
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- Death Toll Rises to 14 After Power Loss at Florida Nursing Home
- 911 Calls from Florida Nursing Home Released After 14 Residents Die