Last week, eight elderly patients at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
The storm’s ferocious winds and dangerous weather conditions caused mass power outages and flooding across Florida.
Residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills – located in Hollywood, FL – were assured before Irma struck that they’d be safe and taken care of. The facility’s administrators assured worried patients as well as their family members that an evacuation wasn’t necessary, and that staff would be on hand to deal with any potential emergencies.
Now, the legal guardian of 94-year old Rosa Cabrera is suing the Center for “negligence and reckless indifference,” claiming that Hollywood Hills didn’t take the proper precautions to protect their most vulnerable patients.
Cabrera, for instance, is a double-amputee “without the ability to walk or live independently,” according to the legal complaint, which was filed with Broward County state court on Friday.
The 94-year old woman sustained heat-related injuries after the Center’s electrical system crashed, taking the air conditioning supply along with it.
“As the hurricane approached, Ms. Cabrera was told by the Rehab Center that she would not be evacuated, but would be safe and cared for,” at the nursing home, read the document.
Cabrera – along with other elderly residents – were not told that the Center didn’t have a generator capable of powering the air conditioning in the event of a mass electrical outage.
According to coverage by ABC News, the complaint also alleges that the Center’s management should have known that Irma was likely to cause power problems, and that if the electricity went out, “the temperature inside the facility would be unsafe and dangerous” for its approximately 150 residents.
“Notwithstanding these foreseeable, dangerous, and life-threatening circumstances, the defendant made no effort to relocate the elderly and vulnerable residents or to secure an adequate cooling system for the center,” claims the complaint.
ABC reports that most of the eight residents who died during and after the power outage suffered from respiratory distress, dehydration, and other health problems induced by high temperatures and heat. Some of the survivors who were admitted to the nearby Memorial Regional Hospital said they’d felt extremes of up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
The public relations firm representing the hospital said that multiple calls and requests for assistance were placed to Florida emergency services and utility companies after the air conditioning and electrical supply were rendered inert by Irma.
Officials also purportedly tried calling the personal cell phone of Florida Governor Rick Scott – the messages received were relayed to two government agencies, which returned the Rehabilitation Center’s calls
The Florida Department of Health said in a statement, “It is 100 percent the responsibility of health care professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients. Let’s be clear – this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities. The tragic and senseless loss at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center is the subject of a criminal homicide investigation by law enforcement.”