Investigators, loved ones seek answers after deaths at Hollywood nursing home

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - Investigators and loved ones are now seeking answers after eight people died in relation to a Hollywood nursing home that lost power.

A criminal investigation is now underway into what exactly happened Wednesday morning.

“The Hollywood Police Department has been granted a search warrant for this property, and officers are on scene continuing their criminal investigation,” said City of Hollywood Spokesperson Raelin Storey.

Officers searched the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills where a nightmare unfolded in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

“The facility had some power. However, the building’s air conditioning system was not fully functional,” said Storey.

Eight people died in total, with one death taking place Tuesday, the day before the crisis began. Wednesday morning, 145 residents were evacuated. All were admitted to the hospital or transferred to another nursing home.

By Thursday, 70 patients have been discharged from the hospital.

Gov. Rick Scott has since directed the Agency for Healthcare Administration to issue an emergency moratorium for the center, preventing them from accepting any patients.

In a statement, Nursing Home Administrator Jorge Carballo insisted the facility was well prepared for the storm.

“Staff set up mobile cooling units and fans to cool the facility. Our staff continually checked on our residents’ well-being. Our most important concern to ensure they were hydrated and as comfortable as possible,” said Carballo in a statement. “We are devastated by these losses. We are fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to assess what went wrong and to ensure our other residents are cared for.”

However, according to officials with Memorial Regional Hospital, some of the residents that were transferred there suffered respiratory distress, dehydration and other issues stemming from the heat.

Now, some people want to know why someone didn’t take action sooner. “We know that’s an important issue for people. We don’t have a definitive on that right now,” said Storey.

In a press conference Thursday, Memorial Regional staff members said that when they arrived at the center, they saw patients in distress and in bad shape.

“There were a number of very sick people. Visually, you could see that they were sick,” said Memorial Regional Hospital Dr. Randy Katz.

“They looked like they were dehydrated. Some of them looked compromised,” said the hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer Judy Frum.

With the death of the eight patients, many friends and family members of patients in the home are now highly concerned with the conditions their loved ones may have been in.

Linda Horton was the closest person to Carolyn Eatherly, one of the eight patients who died at the nursing home. The two often traveled together and had lived together for 25 years.

Now, Horton is demanding answers.

“What the hell happened? I can’t believe there are people who are still treated this way in this country,” said Horton. “It’s sad. It’s not acceptable. It’s not O.K.”

Eatherly developed Alzheimer’s back in 2000. Horton said the 78-year-old could not do for herself.

“I believe that she was actually one of the first to go, actually. Because she died at about 4 a.m.,” said Horton. “This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s shameful. I can’t imagine what she must have gone through. It hurts me.”

Horton is not alone.

“Shame on you. Shame on you,” said Vendetta Craig.

Craig’s mother. Edna Jefferson, was one of the many evacuees of the home. She is now recovering in the hospital.

“I’m extremely upset. I mean words… There are no words. It’s unnecessary. You could spit on the hospital,” Craig said. “I don’t know what happened inside. I wasn’t there. I hope the truth comes out. It’s senseless.”

Horton and Craig are just two of the many families asking for answers and change.

“I just feel that they were neglected and [the facility] didn’t take care of what they needed to take care of. People have died,” said Horton.

Craig said the facility was already understaffed, and they just couldn’t handle the undertaking once Hurricane Irma hit.

Before the hurricane hit Florida, family members called the facility to find out about the plans for before and after the hurricane. They said they were reassured, so now they want to know what happened.

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