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Inside the Florida nursing home where several died during Hurricane Irma, it was 99 degrees

Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The temperature inside a Hollywood nursing home that became a death trap for a dozen residents soared to 99 degrees Fahrenheit -- a key detail previously not disclosed to the public.

With a criminal investigation under way, medical officials and police had not revealed just how hot it grew after Hurricane Irma knocked out the home's central air conditioning. A nurse who prompted a mass evacuation of the building three days later said at the time: "The temperature in the building was really warm."

The residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills struggled for 62 hours in the oppressive heat. Twelve died in what the Broward Medical Examiner's Office ruled were homicides.

At least 10 of the 12 lived on the second floor. That's where temperatures climbed to 99 degrees, according to a new document filed by the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees nursing homes.

The document lays out just how widespread the problem became, revealing how many people were seriously sickened by the heat.

State health regulators reviewed the medical records of most of the building's 141 residents and found four out of every five who lived on the top story suffered dehydration or other effects of heat exposure.

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Those living downstairs fared better but still many also fell ill from the extreme heat and humidity. State health regulators said 44 percent of the 71 residents on the bottom floor suffered from dehydration or other heat related symptoms.

The state cites the dehydration among residents in it's claim that "the facility failed to provide appropriate health care" and did not ensure that the 12 who died were "free from neglect." The state alleges that nursing home officials failed to recognize the risk of the rising temperatures and violated state law by not providing "comfortable and safe room temperature levels."

A lawyer and a public relations team hired by the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were not working during the Christmas holiday and could not be reached for comment.

In legal papers filed with the state in its defense, the nursing home has said it "properly monitored, hydrated and provided care and comfort for residents," while it waited for the power to be restored. In addition, the nursing home said at no time "were any excessive temperatures experienced in the building."

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