More Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills victims file lawsuits

11th nursing home resident hospitalized dies, Hollywood police say

By Layron Livingston - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Edna Jefferson, 88, remained hospitalized Saturday, and her family blamed the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills administrators for risking her life. They are among the relatives of patients and residents of the nursing home who were filing negligence lawsuits.

Authorities reported the 11th patient died Friday, as detectives continued a criminal investigation to figure out who failed to protect the vulnerable residents after Hurricane Irma.

After the Sept. 13 incident, health care regulators, state legislators, emergency management officials and nursing home owners have made promises to do everything in their power to protect nursing home patients.

The state's regulator shut down the facility Thursday after the nursing home filed a lawsuit in Leon County disputing the state's orders to cut off the facility's Medicaid payments and block new admissions.

Gov. Rick Scott wants nursing homes to have generators and fuel to keep power on for 96 hours.

"We can prevent these things -- which never should have happened in the first place -- from happening again," State Sen. Lauren Book said in a statement after filing legislation to require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have working generators

Nursing homes are already required to maintain temperatures between 71 and 81 degrees. A bill proposed about 11 years ago, would have required the facilities to have generators. It passed the Senate, but industry lobbyists put a stop to it in the Senate. 

Authorities Broward Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak identified the 11th victim as Alice Thomas, but hasn't released the cause of death for any of the residents and patients. 

The 94-year-old patient  who died Friday was hospitalized after the temperatures of one of the patients who died at the hospital was recorded to be as high as 109.9 degrees, according to authorities. 

Administrators at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, owned by Larkin Community Hospital, blame Florida Power & Light for not restoring power early enough, as they followed an approved emergency plan.

Natasha Anderson, an administrator of Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services, the psychiatric facility in the same building, reported that without air conditioning the nursing home residents and the psychiatric patients were using fans and spot coolers.

The lawsuits followed. Relatives who entrusted their loved ones to the facility blame the nursing staff for not evacuating sooner and for not notifying authorities that their vulnerable patients were in imminent danger.

Relatives believe that if the Memorial Regional Hospital staff had not ran over to help when they noticed a pattern at the emergency room, more of the nursing home residents and patients would have died.  

Authorities identified the 10 others who died as Albertina Vega, 99, Manuel Mario Mendieta, 96, Martha Murray, 94, Carlos Canal, 93, Antonio Franco, 92, Bobby Owens, 84, Betty Hibbard, 84, Carolyn Eatherly, 78, Estella Hendricks, 71, and Gail Nova, 70.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked anyone with information about the deaths of the nursing home residents to call 1-866-452-3461. 

Copyright 2017 by WPLG The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.