Gov. Rick Scott’s office deleted voicemails seeking emergency assistance from a Broward County nursing home where 11 people died earlier this month, new information shows.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills said it tried to call the governor’s office repeatedly after the facility lost power and circumstances became dangerous, with hot temperatures inside the nursing home ultimately killing several patients inside.
CBS4 Miami requested copies of the voicemails left on a special line for health care administrators but was unable to determine what, exactly, the voicemails said since they were deleted by the governor’s staff.
“The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling,” a spokeswoman for Scott told CBS4.
Scott's press secretary Lauren Schenone told Sunshine State News it is standard protocol to delete the governor's voicemails, adding that he receives "hundreds" of messages each day.
The nursing home said its officials tried to reach the governor’s office several times via a special phone number Scott gave out to healthcare executives should they encounter any problems recovering from the storm.
Nursing home officials said they told the governor they needed “immediate assistance,” but did not hear back from him.
Scott does not deny being contacted by the nursing home but said at no point did the home indicate the situation had become dangerous, criticizing the facility for not calling 911 to receive help quickly. Scott's office said it referred the calls to the Agency for Health Care Administration for further assistance.
“No amount of finger pointing by the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Facility … will hide the fact that this healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” Scott said in a prepared statement released last week. “This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision to not evacuate their patients to one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which is directly across the street.”
Eleven people perished as a result of the sweltering heat inside the nursing home, which was left without power following Hurricane Irma.
The first call for help from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills came around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, with staffers claiming one elderly patient had gone into cardiac arrest after the nursing home had been left without power for several days.
A second call came an hour later -- but by the third call for help, the facility raised eyebrows that the situation may become deadlier and deadlier as temperatures increased and the nursing home was left without adequate air conditioning.
Patients’ deaths have prompted questions as to who was responsible for the deaths and how, exactly, the tragedy occurred.
Hollywood police launched an independent investigation into the tragedy, but repercussions are already being felt at the nursing home.
Scott directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to cut the facility’s Medicaid funds and also issued an emergency moratorium over the home, barring it from accepting new patients indefinitely.
In response, the home filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court seeking to block Gov. Rick Scott from withholding the Medicaid payments and is requesting an injunction over the moratorium.