Florida nursing home death toll rises to six


Six people are dead after Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, according to ABC affiliate WPLG.

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said four deaths occurred at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills near Fort Lauderdale and three others died at a hospital.

Most of the patients treated for respiratory distress, dehydration, and heat-related issues, officials said, and about 12 of the 115 patients are in the emergency room.

A state official eventually said they found a generator and gas, but it was not needed: The power turned back on.

Jacksonville Sheriff's officials say 42-year-old Blake Lee Waller and 46-year-old Victor Walter Apeler were arrested on grand theft charges Wednesday after someone reported seeing them load the pole onto a sports utility vehicle. The facility itself has power, the individual said.

Richard Beltran of Florida Power & Light noted that not only did "a portion of the facility did, in fact, have power", there was also "a hospital across the parking lot from this facility and ... the nursing home was required to have a permanently installed operational generator".

Even in the face of a storm that shrouded almost the entire state and had officials still piecing together its destruction, the news Wednesday from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills stood out, with victims as old as 99 among the dead and worries the count could grow.

Police evacuated about 100 residents on Wednesday from the Hollywood Hills nursing home, according to Sun Sentinel.

When asked why the patients hadn't been taken across the street to Memorial Regional hospital when temperatures became risky, Hollywood city spokeswoman Rayelin Storey said, "We can't get inside the heads of the staff and the administrators of this facility".

Ten million people are still without power in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas after Hurricane Irma.

The deaths are under investigation.

In addition to severe flooding across Florida and extensive property damage in the Keys, residents faced widespread power outages that initially plunged more than half the state into darkness. An official from Memorial said that the healthcare network was helping with evacuating people from the rehabilitation center, which is not part of the Memorial system, and will take some to their other hospitals in the region.

President Donald Trump was due to visit Florida on Thursday.

Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said authorities are conducting a criminal investigation of the deaths. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open. For example, the website said 25.9 percent of "short stay" residents were hospitalized again after admission to the nursing home, above the state average of 23 percent and the national average of 21.1 percent.

"People are telling me different things", she said Wednesday evening. 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. More than 21,000 people remain in shelters across the state.