Four Employees of Florida Nursing Home to Face Criminal Charges Over Hurricane Irma Deaths

Four employees of the Hollywood Hills nursing home in Florida will face criminal charges related to the deaths of a dozen residents due to heat exposure after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The New York Times first reported plans to charge the employees, a group that includes the administrator, a charge nurse, and two other nurses, on Saturday; The Associated Press reported on Monday that the administrator and two of the nurses had turned themselves in.

Reuters reported Monday that the fourth defendant was taken into custody, citing the lawyers David Frankel and Lawrence Hashish.

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Eight residents died on September 13, 2017, at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Fla., when the facility’s air conditioners failed after Hurricane Irma. Several more residents died in the weeks after, and their deaths were ruled homicides by a local medical examiner. The skilled nursing facility was eventually shut down.

Investigations by Florida and the United States Senate found that some nurses failed to properly record patient information, and that gaps in state and federal oversight played a role in poor decision-making by the facility’s administrators, the New York Times noted.

Frankel, the charge nurse’s lawyer, told the paper he believed his client would be charged with 12 counts of manslaughter; other lawyers said they expected manslaughter to be among the charges, though they did not know which ones would be filed.

The deaths at the Hollywood Hills facility put emergency preparation for SNFs in the spotlight across the country. The state of Florida issued updated emergency preparedness rules for SNFs shortly after the deaths at the Hollywood Hills facility, but later a judge invalidated them, on the grounds that then-Gov. Rick Scott “failed to demonstrate the existence of an immediate danger.”

Eventually the Florida SNF sector agreed to modified rules that require operators to maintain sources of backup electricity in case of a power outage.

Hollywood police have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel noted in a deep dive on the conditions that led to the resident deaths after Irma.

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