Staff at a Florida nursing home where nine patients fell ill last week and eventually died after its air conditioning was knocked out for days made entries into patients’ medical records that inaccurately portrayed their situation, according to state officials.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration issued an emergency suspension order Wednesday on the license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had been ordered to stop admitting new patients nearly a week ago following the heat-related deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Rescue crews discovered the facility was extremely hot last week while responding to several calls from staff requesting help for patients in distress. Over 100 patients were then evacuated across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital, a major medical center located just a few hundred feet from the rehab center.
Several of these patients were admitted to the hospital with body temperatures exceeding 108 degrees Fahrenheit ― “far too late to be saved,” according to a statement released by the AHCA.
After conducting its initial investigation, the AHCA found staff members had not only “overwhelmingly delayed calling 911” and evacuating the facility, but also made late entries in patients’ medical records, which portrayed “an inaccurate depiction of the situation at the facility.”
In one instance, a nurse recorded a patient’s temperature at 101.6, but the patient was actually at the hospital at the time ― with a recorded temperature of 108.3. The AHCA also found a “very egregious” case in which a late entry noted a patient was resting in bed with “respirations even and unlabored,” though the patient was in fact dead at the time of the entry.
AHCA Secretary Justin Senior called the events “horrifying” and “unfathomable.”
“As more information has come to light on this egregious situation, this facility absolutely cannot continue to have access to patients,” Senior said in a statement. “No amount of emergency preparedness could have prevented the gross medical and criminal recklessness that occurred at this facility.”
Kirsten K. Ullman, co-counsel for the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, denied the AHCA’s allegations in a statement sent to HuffPost on Thursday. She called the deaths “heartbreaking,” but claimed the actions and care implemented by staff during the crisis were “reasonable.”
“Care givers continuously monitored their residents,…