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When elders are in peril, whom do you call — 911 or Rick Scott’s cell?

Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center

@MaryEllenKlas @MarbinMiller @DChangMiami

Twelve hours after Irma blasted through South Florida, conditions at Larkin Community Hospital in Hollywood were miserable.

The Broward psychiatric hospital was at full capacity with adults and adolescents who were mentally ill; the air conditioning wasn’t working and they couldn’t open windows. So what did the director of nursing at Larkin do to seek help? He wrote an email — to a Broward County commissioner, whose office was closed.

Twelve hours after Irma blasted through South Florida, conditions at Larkin Community Hospital in Hollywood were miserable.

The Broward psychiatric hospital was at full capacity with adults and adolescents who were mentally ill; the air conditioning wasn’t working and they couldn’t open windows. So what did the director of nursing at Larkin do to seek help? He wrote an email — to a Broward County commissioner, whose office was closed.

Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services is the sister operation to the adjacent Hollywood Hills rehab center, where eight residents died on Sept. 13 when power was lost to an air conditioning system and a set of portable air coolers malfunctioned. A ninth resident died Tuesday.

Ryan had forwarded the email to Justin Senior, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, and its release Tuesday night was intended to underscore the inadequacy of the nursing home’s calls for help. But beyond highlighting the nursing home’s feckless response, the email also raises doubts about the state’s strategy for helping elder-care operators brace for a looming catastrophe.

During a conference call with nursing home and ALF representatives in the run-up to the storm, Gov. Scott did something that might seem unusual for the leader of the nation’s third-largest state.

Scott, who wedged in the conference call amid a flurry of interviews with cable news anchors, gave out a private cell phone number to the caregivers. He said give us a call if you have a problem.

Many did just that, including the Hollywood Hills nursing home. The rehab center made multiple calls to the cell phone and to a separate state information hotline set up to deal with storm-related emergencies. In the calls, the Hollywood nursing home reported the electrical breakdown and indicated the situation was becoming increasingly urgent.

Not only did those calls fail to yield any substantive help, but they have resulted in sharp criticism from the governor’s office, which said the nursing home never reported that lives were in jeopardy. It also questioned why the staff didn’t take the sick and dying residents to Memorial Regional Hospital, which is next door.

Late Wednesday, the state added to the barrage of condemnations, saying the nursing home had fudged its medical records after residents had been evacuated. One resident was reported to be breathing without difficulty — after already having died.

The deaths at Hollywood Hills have raised questions about the strategy of routing emergency pleas through the governor’s office as well as the thought process behind phoning Tallahassee or emailing a county commissioner rather than calling 911 when conditions are careening from uncomfortable to stifling to deadly. More here. 

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