HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Memorial Healthcare's director of nursing testified Tuesday during the second day of a hearing to determine whether the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills will lose its license following the deaths of 12 patients.
The patients died in the days and weeks following Hurricane Irma after the air conditioning at the facility went out.
Memorial Healthcare director of nursing Tracy Metzer said nurses found patients curled up in bed, sweating profusely after they responded to the facility to see why several patients had previously been brought over.
"She, too, was in a fetal position, curled up on her bed, which was just a mattress. There was no sheet," Metzer said about one patient. "She was in a diaper. She was hot and sweating. She was very wet, her hair was wet and her diaper was saturated with urine and feces, and she, too, just kind of looked at me. She was nonverbal."
Metzer said some of the other patients were sitting in wheelchairs in the hallways when the nurses arrived. Many were experiencing shallow breathing, she said.
A total of 12 residents at the nursing home eventually died from complications due to extreme heat in the building after the facility lost power during the storm.
Three patients were found dead in their beds, and others were hospitalized before the entire facility was evacuated.
"It was just hotter on the first floor than it was outside, and it was hotter on the second floor than it was on the first floor," Metzer said.
Attorneys representing the center told the judge on Monday that employees made dozens of calls for help when the air conditioning went out.
"There were a total of 14 calls and contacts with FPL," one attorney said. "They contacted the governor's cellphone when FPL didn't come. They contacted the governor's cellphone not once or twice, but they contacted the governor's cellphone five times."
Attorneys said the center also got fans and spot coolers to try to keep the patients cool.
The state revealed patients' body temperatures were up to 107.5 degrees. Fire rescue personnel couldn't get a reading on one patient, and said the thermometer only read "Hi," meaning her temperature was above 108 degrees.
The medical examiner has ruled all 12 deaths as homicides.
The Hollywood Police Department is still conducting a criminal investigation.