In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday cited the case of the now-infamous Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to urge an investigation of nursing home regulation oversight.
During Hurricane Irma, the facility lost power — setting into motion a chain of events that led to seemingly avoidable casualties, when the nursing home operators failed to evacuate patients to a nearby hospital.
In the weeks since the storm, 14 patients have died, and many of those deaths can be attributed to the power loss in Irma.
“In the wake of Hurricane Irma, 14 residents of a single nursing facility in Hollywood, Florida, passed away. While this terrible tragedy is currently under investigation, it has been widely reported that these individuals were left in sweltering conditions after the nursing facility’s air conditioning system lost power,” Rubio wrote Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden.
“This has shocked the state of Florida,” Rubio added, “and rightfully raised questions about the oversight of nursing homes, particularly the enforcement of existing emergency preparedness requirements.”
Rubio went on to note issues in previous inspections by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Among them: a medication error rate of 26 percent in Feb. 2016, which far exceeds the federal government’s dictum that error rates should be no more than 5 percent.
As well, beyond medication mishaps, the nursing home was found in 2014 as “not providing enough water to all patients in order to maintain proper hydration and health, contravening federal requirements,” wrote Rubio.
Rubio notes that “federal regulations mandate that facilities’ emergency preparedness procedures address subsistence needs for residents, including alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures and protect residents’ health and safety.”
“Unfortunately,” Rubio adds, “despite this requirement and the facilities’ close proximity to an operational hospital, residents were found to have temperatures exceeding 109 degrees, far above the level that puts seniors at risk for heat stroke.”
Rubio seeks an investigation of the Hollywood Hills facility, as well as others in Florida and Puerto Rico, “to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”
As well, Rubio wants the committee to “consider examining other ways in which Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were impacted by these storms and how better planning and coordination between the federal, state, and local government could mitigate harm caused by hurricanes.”