Recovery efforts after hurricane Irma are well underway throughout the entire state of Florida, with individuals and communities attempting to assess the damage and rebuild—in some cases from the ground up. While the state grapples with continued flooding and sudden sinkholes, one of the primary focuses at this point in time lies in getting the power back on line for everyone affected by the storm.In cases such as this, Florida Power and Light, the primary distributor of electricity throughout the state, is required by law to place priority on facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, ensuring that all the patients and residents within are well taken care of before attention is given to less essential structures such as homes and businesses. Care facilities, for their part, are required by law to ensure that Florida Power and Light knows of their importance and to report any unusual circumstances to the company.
In Hollywood, around 3:00 on Wednesday morning, emergency dispatchers received a call from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills saying that one of the elderly residents there was suffering from a heart attack. When the responders arrived, the individual was transported to to a nearby hospital. However, the night for the center and the officers was far from over. One hour later, at 4:00 in the morning, 9-1-1 dispatchers again sent firefighters to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills for an individual who was reportedly suffering from problems with their breathing. Shortly after the second call, a third call came in, again from the Rehabilitation Center.
Firefighters, assessing the situation, then deemed it prudent to evacuate the entire facility of all 158 individuals inside. Numerous people were transported to the hospital suffering what appeared to be symptoms of exposure to extreme heat. 8 people reportedly died.
Romas Sanchez, Police Chief for Hollywood, reported on his experience within the facility. According to Chief Sanchez, the temperature of the building’s second floor far exceeded a safe or acceptable threshold, and that most of those admitted to hospitals came from here.
Statements from both Jorge Carballo, the nursing home administrator, and Florida Power and Light attempt to place the blame on the other party. Damning for the Rehabilitation Center itself is the fact that, after Irma, Florida Power and Light was able to confirm that the Center was receiving power to a portion of its campus. Furthermore, the Center issued statements saying that cooling units and fans were in operation in order to ensure that all residents remained properly taken care of. Facilities such as the Rehabilitation Center are required by law to possess backup generators to ensure that scenarios such as the one described above never happen. It is not clear whether or not the Rehabilitation Center was using a backup generator at the time of the calls and, if so, what they were using it for.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the entire situation is that a hospital lies directly across the street from the nursing home. At no point did nursing home staff attempt to make contact with this hospital to report on the life threatening conditions suffered by the center’s residents.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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