LIGHTS OUT

Generators Kept Dying at Florida Nursing Home. This Time It Killed 8 People.

The facility where elderly residents died of excessive heat has racked up multiple safety and health care violations, landing close to the bottom of federal standards.

The Florida nursing home where eight elderly residents died Wednesday has a history of health and safety violations.

Police were called to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills early in the morning, where three residents were found dead and others were in “varying degrees of medical distress,” according to police. Three more people died after being taken to a hospital following the evacuation of the 152-bed facility.

Investigators believe the deaths were likely heat-related, and that the building’s emergency generator was not running air conditioning after the facility lost power during Hurricane Irma. Hospital officials said most of the residents who required medical attention are being treated for respiratory distress, dehydration, and other heat-related issues.

Florida police have since opened a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Florida resident Flora Mitchell told the Miami Herald that she hasn’t been able to get any information about her sister, who can’t walk or talk.

“I don’t know if my sister is living,” she said. “Nobody’s telling us nothing.”

Prior safety inspections showed problems with the center’s emergency generator. An inspection conducted last year found that the center was using only a temporary generator and lacked plans to install a permanent one, despite federal safety regulations, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. An earlier report from 2014 found that the generator’s alert system had failed and would not warn staff if it malfunctioned.

In both instances, administrators said they would correct the deficiencies.

A series of inspection reports ranging back from 2014 also show a history of health care violations.

The facility’s consistently poor conditions led Medicare and Medicaid Services to give the center an overall rating of “below average” and its health-care services a rating of “much below average.” Its most recent March inspection reported  that a woman received a shower only every ten days and was forced to eat breakfast while she was covered in urine despite asking staff to clean her. It also noted a failure to accurately track resident health conditions and cited dirty kitchen conditions, including a microwave and oven “soiled with black matter.”

A 2016 report also notes violations including improper food storage, failure to insure the proper sterilization of medical supplies, and a medication error rate at 25.9 percent. That year the center received 17 health inspection violations, compared to the state’s 6.6 average. It also received a federal fine of $5,500.

The center also began to encounter problems with its leadership in 2013, when Karen Kallen-Zury, the center’s CEO, was sentenced for health care fraud for $70 million fraudulent billing for services received at mental health hospital, Hollywood Pavilion. The nursing home currently owned by Jack Michel, who is also the president of Larkin Community Hospital. The hospital was caught up in its own scandal last year when an employee was charged as part of a $1 billion Medicare fraud and money laundering scheme.