Florida nursing home deaths spur efforts to protect elderly

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Five residents at a Florida nursing home that lost power during Hurricane Irma have died as a result of loss of air conditioning during the outage, Broward County officials said Wednesday. "We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population".

On the night before emergency workers had to evacuate people from a Florida nursing home where eight died, residents suffered in the sweltering heat as staff used fans to cool them, and one woman sat naked in a bed in a hallway, a video obtained by CNN shows.

As investigators gather evidence that could determine whether charges are brought in the deaths of eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a timeline of events will be crucial.

"The suspicion is that these deaths should not have occurred", NPR's Jon Hamilton reported from the scene Wednesday.

The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm's aftermath, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal generator fumes.

Despite filing four status updates on Monday and Tuesday, the nursing home never reported to a state health department online database that patients were at risk, said a spokeswoman for the Agency for Health Care Administration. Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez immediately called it a "criminal" probe.

Harvey and Irma have underscored the importance of protecting people who live in nursing facilities. County officials released documents showing the Hollywood facility was in compliance with that regulation and that it held a hurricane drill with its staff in October.

The nursing home has twice been cited for violating federal standards on its backup power capabilities, according to STAT News.

The facility has had a spotty inspection record, earning a "below average" grade Medicare's nursing home rating system.

RAW Hollywood Nursing Home Evacuated After Irma
RAW Hollywood Nursing Home Evacuated After Irma

On Key West, at the end of the archipelago, hundreds of residents who had refused evacuation orders lined up on Wednesday outside the island's Salvation Army outpost for water and military-style rations after enduring days of intense heat with little water, power or contact with the outside world.

Older people can be more susceptible to heat because their bodies do not adjust to temperatures as well as young people.

The number of people in shelters across the state fell to less than 13,000. "When we approach her she wasn't really crying but tears were kind of coming, she says 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe Jean, '" Johnson said. Almost 3.8 million power customers in the state still lacked service early Wednesday as the mammoth effort to restore electricity in the often hot and humid region continues.

Still, the dangers lingered, mostly in the form of noxious gas from generators serving those who still didn't have power.

State Senator Anitere Flores cahirs the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee and said "There is no reason what so ever those individuals should have been in a home that hot for that many days".

The center had some electricity, but not enough to power the air conditioning.

Retired nurse Flora Mitchell's 58-year-old sister Vanda Wilson has been as resident at Rehabilitation Center since suffering a stroke, which left her unable to speak or move, a decade ago.

On Monday, FPL told the facility that it would be at there that morning, but utility representatives later said someone would come in the afternoon.

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