We don’t really know yet what was happening inside the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, six residents of which dropped dead because the air conditioning stopped working after Irma.
Six people died in a Hollywood, Florida, nursing home that had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said Wednesday three people died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The other three were later declared dead at nearby Memorial Regional Hospital.
Three of the six have been identified by the medical examiner’s office as Estella Hendricks, 71, Gail Nova, 71, and Carolyn Eatherly, 78.
Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said it was “very hot” on the building’s second floor, and they are treating the incident as a “criminal investigation.”
Jack Michel, owner of the facility, was accused in 2004 of federal and state health care fraud charges, according to the Department of Justice. He and three others eventually settled the case.
Regulators do not require nursing homes like Hollywood Hills to have generators, and there are still 150 nursing homes in the state without power.
I like to think that the people running the nursing home were working like mad to restore the A/C and were stricken with dread and anguish as they worried what would happen to the residents if they did not cool the place immediately.
But personal experience tells me otherwise.
In 2009, the A/C went out at the assisted living center — The Crossings in Lake Worth — where my mom lived. The administrators said the situation was fine, and that the A/C would be back in working order soon enough. After all, there were fans, they said.
But it was obvious things were not fine. Standing inside for a few minutes, sweat beaded up on your brow. It was hard on me, and I don’t have Alzheimer’s disease or a chronic respiratory illness.
They were trying to get the A/C fixed, but there was a problem getting a part, they said.
My wife, a hawk when it comes to mistreatment of the vulnerable, and I called the authorities to request a visit.
It was then that I witnessed a dumbfounding display of cynicism and soullessness:
An administrator sidled up to me as I stood at the facility’s main desk.
‘Come on,’ she said, ‘what do you really expect you’re going to accomplish with this?’
When the inspector arrived to get the temperature readings to see if they surpassed the legal limit — which I seem to remember as 82 degrees — she was directed to one of the cooler rooms, and they passed. Then we asked for readings in other rooms, where they failed.
They were required to begin using portable air conditioning units immediately. And the air-conditioning was soon fixed.
Most saddening, I suppose, is that most of the family members of the residents had no idea that this problem had ever occurred, let alone had the industry and resolve to do anything about it.
It is easy for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to fall into a state of complacency because there are usually so few eyes and ears to hold them accountable.
I hope that this same lack of urgency and empathy wasn’t carrying the day in Hollywood Hills as the temperatures rose and the residents neared their deaths.
But I suspect it was.