The Hollywood nursing home where eight people died after Hurricane Irma says it tried to call Gov. Rick Scott’s office three times before the first death at the facility, the latest in finger-pointing at the governor and the state’s largest electricity provider, Florida Power & Light.
The first call for help from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills came around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, 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.
A total of eight people died at the elderly home, prompting questions as to who was responsible for the deaths and how, exactly, the tragedy occurred.
Now CBS Miami is reporting the Hollywood nursing home says 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 Scott they needed “immediate assistance,” but did not hear back from the governor.
The governor’s office denies being contacted by the nursing home, saying “at no time” did the facility report conditions had become dangerous.
“Every call made to the Governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned,” said Scott’s communications director John Tupps.
The Florida Department of Health also rejected responsibility for the incident.
“Let’s be clear -- this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities,” the department said. “It is 100 percent the responsibility of health care professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients.”
Police launched a full investigation into the incident, with initial findings discovering the nursing home was without sufficient air conditioning and was using portable A/C units to keep the facility cool.
On Wednesday, facility administrator Jorge Caballo said the home had contacted officials and local power company Florida Power & Light, informing them of the situation.
Caballo did not mention contacting the governor’s office at the time.
“We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “While our Center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The Center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”
Earlier this week, the governor said health officials had been in contact with the facility and advised staffers to contact 911 if they believed the health and safety of patients was at risk.
Family members of one of the patients have filed an emergency lawsuit over the incident to seek the "preservation and production of vital records, documents and surveillance" from the Hollywood nursing home.
Democratic gubernatorial nominees Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum both called for an investigation into the possible phone calls Friday evening.
Graham said the responsibility to respond to any and all problems laid solely with Scott.
"It is 100 percent the governor's responsibility to do everything in his power protect every Floridian,” she said.
Gillum said he found the incident disturbing and also called for a second look into the deaths.
"Today's reports that the Governor and his Office gave out a special priority phone line - then failed to act when they received distress calls - are highly alarming,” Gillum said. “The investigators must have full access to all public records and transcripts of communications, meetings, and conference calls between the Governor, his Office, and healthcare facilities in preparing for Hurricane Irma.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.