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Court Rejects Appeal for Hollywood Nursing Home’s License Following Hurricane Irma Deaths

A South Florida appeals court has made a decision regarding arguments that the state improperly revoked the license of a Broward County nursing home where residents died after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal last week rejected the appeal by The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The one-page order did not explain the court’s reasons.

Lawyers for the nursing home asked the court to find that an administrative law judge made a series of errors in recommending that the facility lose its license.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning, with authorities attributing as many as 12 resident deaths to sweltering conditions in the building. But attorneys for the Agency for Health Care Administration contended in a brief that the nursing home’s “abject failure to meet its obligations as a licensed facility and the tragic consequences justify AHCA’ s decision to revoke its license.”

Hurricane Irma made landfall Sept. 10, 2017, in Monroe and Collier counties and caused damage through much of the state. The nursing home lost power to its air-conditioning system, which was out until Sept. 13, when residents were evacuated.

The deaths drew national attention and led the state to move quickly to shut down the facility and, ultimately, revoke its license. Four staff members were charged with manslaughter. Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy in 2018 issued a recommended order supporting the revocation.

While authorities have attributed as many as 12 deaths to conditions at the facility, Creasy wrote that “clear and convincing evidence” was presented during the case that nine of the 12 residents “suffered greatly from the exposure to unsafe heat in the facility.” Following Creasy’s recommendation, the Agency for Health Care Administration in January 2019 issued a final order to revoke the license.

Florida’s current nursing home generator law requires assisted living and nursing home facilities to acquire generators and fuel as a direct result of the Hurricane Irma tragedy. The equipment that they have must allow them to keep the temperature at their facility at 81 degrees or below even if they suffer a loss of power. Small facilities must be able to provide air conditioning for 48 hours and larger facilities must provide power for up to 96 hours after a power loss. 

There are additional requirements, such as facilities must create and report an emergency plan to the Department of Elder Affairs, which must be a comprehensive emergency management plan. Additionally, they must also pass an inspection by the Florida Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall performs an inspection to ensure that the generator and fuel that the facility acquires is adequate to comply with the law.

Just like all other states, Florida’s nursing home laws are set in place to provide patients with specific standards of treatment and basic rights. These laws protect the safety, comfort, and health of nursing home patients. 

Nursing home patients are also entitled to certain services such as social interaction and mental health counseling. If you are a nursing home patient or a family member and you feel you or your loved one’s rights have been violated, you should seek the assistance of our Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton.

Florida laws state that nursing homes and assisted living residents are entitled to a certain set of rights when living at a long-term care facility. These laws ensure that  residents are provided a comfortable, safe, clean, and homelike environment. Facilities are required to provide their patients with bedding, clean clothes, and comfortable living quarters. Residents should have access to hot water, clean drinking water, comfortable temperatures, and adequate lighting. Likewise, facilities must be equipped with rails, ramps, and other safety features. These facilities must also provide their residents with nutritious meals, daily exercise, medication, social activities, emergency care, and a living space free from abuse.

In Florida, nursing home abuse and neglect is defined as a caregiver’s failure to meet or provide an individual’s basic needs for things like food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and medical care. When these basic needs are forgotten, patients are at an increased risk of developing an infection, illness, deterioration, and compromised safety.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are also required to provide their patients with a safe environment that is functional, safe, comfortable, and sanitary. When facilities fail to live up to these standards, neglect can happen and result in terrible consequences like the deaths that were seen after Hurricane Irma.

If you think that you or your loved one is living in a nursing home or assisted living facility and is being abused or neglected, we can help. You can count on us to fight for the justice your senior loved ones deserve. 

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