2 more patients of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills die

Total of 14 patients have died after AC stopped working at facility

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Two more patients of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Monday, weeks after the facility lost power after Hurricane Irma.

Cecilia Franco, 90, died overnight. Her husband, Miguel Antonio Franco, 93, and 11 others died after the air conditioning stopped working in the days after the storm.

Hollywood police announced Francesca Andrade, 95, died Monday.

Authorities said the facility had portable air conditioning units running, but many people said it was still unbearably hot inside the facility.

The Franco's children filed a wrongful death lawsuit last month against the facility. At the time, they had placed their mother in a hospice. 

Miguel Franco

"The death of Cecilia Franco has compounded this unnecessary tragedy for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren," the family's attorneys, Curtis Miner and Albert Levin said in a joint statement. "Her family will pursue this case until a complete explanation has been received and complete justice has been obtained."

According to the lawsuit, the facility failed to secure "reliable and effective air-conditioning systems to operate in the event of an inevitable and foreseeable power outage," leaving the elderly residents to suffer for days "in extreme heat and deplorable conditions."

"According to what I saw, there was no calls saying that there was any patients in distress," the Franco's son, Pedro Franco, said. "So I don't know what happened after that. But what I saw, none of those calls stated that there was an emergency."  

The Agency for Health Care Administration has suspended the license of the facility and 245 employees have since been laid off. 

According to the suspension order, residents at the facility had body temperatures of more than 100 degrees when they arrived at Memorial Regional Hospital, across the street from the nursing home.

Justin Senior, secretary for the state agency, wrote in the order that the facility also made many "late entries" into patients' medical records, claiming that the entries were made "under dubious circumstances" hours after a nurse visited the patients.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo blamed the incident on "a prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility's air-conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."

The patients' causes of death have not been released because of an ongoing criminal investigation. 

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