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Regulators move to permanently shut down nursing home after 14 died without AC

Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.--Florida regulators have moved to permanently revoke the operating license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after 14 people died when it lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration also wants the owners to pay a fine of about $43,000 for violations of health and safety standards and for inspection costs.

The agency licenses and regulates long-term care facilities. In September, it forbade the nursing home from taking in new residents or receiving Medicaid.

The rehabilitation center lost power to its central air conditioning after Hurricane Irma for several days. By Sept. 13, residents began suffering respiratory distress and cardiac arrest, one after another, in shockingly fast succession. Eight died that day and six more in following days.

Authorities evacuated the building, shut down the nursing home and launched a criminal investigation.

The nursing home is fighting its closure. It denies violating any regulations and has asked for a hearing before an administrative judge.

The home has also filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee claiming that AHCA cannot prove the residents -- who were old and sickly -- died because of the lack of air conditioning. The Broward Medical Examiner's Office is still determining the causes of death.

In Washington on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee announced that it is launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the nursing home deaths.

The panel has jurisdiction to examine the conditions in the facility because it oversees payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has asked that the committee determine whether Florida properly certified that the nursing home met all the required emergency preparedness regulations to qualify for federal funding.

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