Officials: Fla. nursing home never called for help as patients died

The nursing home listed a backup nursing home and an EMS agency in its hurricane plan, but reps for both companies say they never got a call


By Diane C. Lade and Stephen Hobbs
Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had an ambulance service and another nursing home at the ready to help in the event of a hurricane emergency. But it never reached out to either, even as its frail residents began to die in the escalating heat after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s power.

The Hollywood, Fla.-based nursing home listed Manor Oaks Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Fort Lauderdale and American Ambulance Service in its hurricane plan, but representatives for both companies say they never got a call.

American Ambulance Service had an agreement with the center to transfer residents if they had to leave but never received a call.
American Ambulance Service had an agreement with the center to transfer residents if they had to leave but never received a call. (Photo/MCT)

Ralph Marrinson, whose senior housing company signed a mutual aid agreement with the nursing home in July, said it was Hollywood Regional Memorial Hospital that ultimately called about noon Wednesday. That call came only after emergency personnel had found residents dead at the nursing home early Wednesday and evacuated the facility. A total of eight people, ages 70 to 99, eventually died.

As part of the evacuation, about 30 residents were transferred to Manor Oaks and Manor Pines, another Marrinson facility in Wilton Manors, where most remain, Marrinson said. The transfer lasted until late in the evening, he said. “Some of them now have been moved to facilities closer to their families.”

American Ambulance Service had an agreement with The Rehabilitation Center to transfer residents to another facility if they had to leave but never received a call, said American CEO Charles Maymon.

The Broward County Emergency Operations Center contacted American Ambulance on Wednesday morning as officials determined that the nursing home needed to be evacuated.

Maymon said he sent about 20 ambulances and wheelchair vehicles to help with the effort.

Dr. Jack Michel, the nursing home’s owner, did not respond to a request seeking comment about American Ambulance Service and Manor Oaks or whether staff ever considered evacuating.

The state requires nursing homes to file comprehensive emergency plans with the county emergency management offices detailing, among other things, who will help them if they need to evacuate. County records show that The Rehabilitation Center had an approved plan completed for 2017, including mutual aid agreements with Manor Oaks and American Ambulance.

In a timeline released last week, The Rehabilitation Center said that Gov. Rick Scott and several state agencies didn’t respond to pleas for help and that Florida Power & Light failed to show up four times to fix the electricity. Among the agencies were the Florida Department of Health, Memorial Regional Hospital and the Agency for Health Care Administration, the nursing home said.

FPL refused to confirm or deny the nursing home’s claims. But Scott’s office released a statement Friday afternoon disputing the nursing home’s account, saying “at no time did the facility report that conditions had become dangerous or that the health and safety of their patients was at risk.”

Broward County officials said the home alerted them about the situation the day before, on Tuesday, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help.

Hollywood police have begun a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Copyright 2017 Sun-Sentinel

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