Before Residents Died, Nursing Home Asked Governor for Help

Those messages were deleted off Gov. Rick Scott's cellphone
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2017 4:07 PM CDT
In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood, Fla.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)

(Newser) – At least 11 people have died since Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at their Florida nursing home. Florida Gov. Rick Scott ended funding for The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and suspended its license in the wake of the deaths. Now CBS Miami reports four voicemail messages left on Scott's personal cellphone by nursing home staff in the 36 hours before the first resident died were deleted. The Rehabilitation Center says those messages would have been important evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation. Before Irma made landfall, Scott instructed nursing home officials to call his cellphone if there was trouble. The vice president of The Rehabilitation Center says she did just that four times, asking for "immediate assistance" to get power restored for the air conditioning system.

State officials say some of the residents had body temperatures up to 109 degrees when they died. The New York Times reports one 84-year-old appeared to have steam rising from her legs when she arrived at the hospital. A woman whose father went through an AC-less weekend at the nursing home earlier this year tells the Bradenton Herald—which has a deep look at the nursing home before and after Irma—the place was a "hellhole" and "torture chamber." “When the heat gets up to a certain level, the patients are not breathing right because they are boiling up inside," she says. A spokesperson for Scott's office says they were within their rights to delete the voicemail messages, which were immaterial anyway because "this facility chose not to call 911 or evacuate their patients to the hospital across the street to save lives." (Read more Hurricane Irma stories.)

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