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Hollywood Nursing Home Where Eight Died Wasn’t On Priority List For Power Restoration

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This visible light image of Hurricane Irma was captured by NOAA's GOES East satellite as it strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane in the Central Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 5 at 7:45 a.m. EDT

Eight people died last Wednesday at a nursing home in Hollywood that lost air conditioning when a tree fell on a transformer. Questions remain about why power wasn’t restored before the outage became fatal.

After major storms like Irma, utility companies have a priority list for who gets power back. First up: critical infrastructure, like hospitals, emergency operations centers, some correctional facilities and some nursing homes.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was not classified as critical infrastructure.

“Determining priorities for restoration is something that’s done in advance of hurricane season in partnership with communities.” said Florida Power and Light’s Bryan Garner. FPL is the nursing home’s power provider. Garner and Broward County mayor Barbara Sharief said the nursing home was in a second tier of infrastructure — behind “critical” but ahead of residential homes.

“It doesn’t matter what tier they fell in at FPL,” said Sharief.

“The administrators, the owners of that facility and the people that were present taking care of those patients that should have reacted in the appropriate manner.”

After they lost power, staff at the facility filed a service request to FPL. Broward emergency officials say they got that request upgraded to a “mission critical” status. Nursing home administrators did not respond to an interview request, but a spokesman provided a timeline of events in which the administrators say they were told last Monday FP&L was on the way… and told that again on Tuesday after the air conditioning still hadn’t been had restored.

“They’re to call 911 if they can’t help those patients,” said Sharief.

The center is across the street from a hospital that had power. The spokesman said nursing home administrators requested and received spot coolers from the hospital on Tuesday. The timeline says they first contacted emergency responders on Wednesday morning, when patients had heart problems and trouble breathing.

Current state regulations require nursing homes to have alternate forms of power — but that could be battery-operated fans instead of air conditioning.

In November, a new federal rule goes into effect requiring nursing homes have “alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures to protect resident health and safety.” Critics say that’s not strong enough because it doesn’t specify generators for air conditioning.

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