HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - After 14 patients died when a Hollywood nursing home lost power after Hurricane Irma, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is gearing up to take action to prevent similar nursing home tragedies.
She wants a total revamp of the regulations that nursing homes face in light of the tragedy that took place at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.
“Loss of power can occur and does occur, and we need to make sure that the safety of residents of nursing homes is paramount,” said Wasserman Schultz.
After the hurricane, the Hollywood facility lost power and was functioning on generators. However, the building’s air conditioning was not working. Eight people died in the initial incident, with six more dying in the weeks that followed.
While not confirmed, authorities believe the loss of power to the air conditioning is what led to the deaths of many of the patients.
“We’re here today because of a tragedy that can change the system,” said Carol Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was lucky because her father survived after the rehab center lost power.
The rehab center is located just a few feet away from one of the largest hospitals in the state.
Employees did not call 911 until the first patient stopped breathing.
“The patient is … (unintelligible) she’s a COPD patient. I just noticed, because we don’t have any air condition, so I saw her slouch over. I realized that she’s not breathing, so I check her, she’s just barely breathing and her fingers are around her mouth are slightly cyanotic, and her fingers started to change colors, you know, slightly blue,” one caller said.
Wasserman Schultz wants new regulations requiring facilities to have an alternate source of power to keep them running for at least 96 hours, and she wants nursing homes to be a top priority to have their power restored.
She also wants increased fines for facilities who do not comply.
The hope is to make sure people like Pedro Franco will not lose their loved ones. Franco lost both of his parents in the incident.
“Besides waiting for this bill to pass, we want justice,” said Franco. “We trusted these people that are supposed to be professionally trained to save people’s lives. Simple call – 911 – that’s all it needed to be. A simple call.”
Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the patient deaths.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills remains closed.
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