“These are [the] most frail and vulnerable patients,” Florida State Senator Greg Farmer (D) said. “These are our parents, our grandparents… We have an obligation to these people. Unfortunately, the regulatory systems here in Florida and elsewhere are such that we’re really just licensing death warehouses ― not nursing and care facilities.”
Those are harsh words, but after eight patients died in a Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, they seem to be accurate. Hurricane Irma hit the nursing and care facility, and the air conditioning was taken out. The heat following the storm was sweltering, and patients began to suffer. It wasn’t long before the Hollywood Hills facility became a crime scene protected by the yellow tape of police officers.
The situation is both “mind-boggling” and “heartbreaking” to Gary Farmer, a Democratic state senator who represents the area. The tragedy could ― and should ― have been prevented, he told HuffPost on Thursday. “We know now that… there was an extreme level of malevolence and reckless disregard for the life, health, and safety of the residents of this home,” Farmer said.
The fact that eight elderly patients died is intensified because the facility under investigation is less than a block away from one of the largest hospitals in the area, Memorial Regional Hospital. 100 patients were eventually just wheeled across the street to care with air conditioning.
Jacqueline Ventura visited her mother at the facility every night to feed her dinner. Her mother is 82 and suffers from dementia. After the storm, Ventura’s mother looked weaker than ever as the temperature began to sore. The staff promised that there would be portable fans and air conditioning units to provide temporary relief for the patients. Ventura trusted the staff and returned home. But she just couldn’t shake the feeling of fear for her mother that night.
The next morning, she rushed back to the facility in her pajamas. She had every reason to be worried. The night before a man who regularly ate at the same table as her mother died from the heat. And by the time the police got involved, seven more died as well.
Since this recent tragedy, many people are growing disturbed at the prior violations with Hollywood Hills, as well as the legal record of the owner, Dr. Jack Michel. In 2006, Michel was mandated to pay part of a $15.4 million fraud settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. He was accused of conspiring to admit patients to another facility for unnecessary medical treatments.
Jacqueline Ventura’s mother is OK and with her family. “I thank God my mom is OK, but I’m sad,” Ventura said. “I’m angry… You bring your family for care, and this is the care you get? It’s really disgusting.”
“We don’t choose to have our family members in a nursing home,” she said, tears falling down her cheeks. “We do it because we have to. I work all day. My husband works all day. My mother needs 24/7 care.”
“When you have someone who is defenseless, who can’t walk, you bring them to somewhere safe,” she went on. “I kept telling everyone ‘My mom is in the best place’ ― that she’s right by the hospital if anything happens. It’s bullsh*t.”
Our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Credit: Huffington Post