FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Three people, including two nurses, of a Florida nursing home where 12 people died in sweltering heat turned themselves in on Monday to face charges, their attorneys said.
A total of four people employed at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills at the time of the 2017 deaths were charged, including a third nurse, attorneys Jim Cobb and Lawrence Hashish told The Associated Press. They were not sure if the third nurse, whom neither of them represent, had turned herself in.
Cobb and Hashish also said they were uncertain what charge their clients faced but expected it to be manslaughter.
Patients began dying days after Hurricane Irma swept through, knocking out power at the home. Investigators said the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside began rising, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home’s license was suspended days after the storm and it was later closed.
Cobb’s client, former home administrator Jorge Caballo, said he and other administrators were repeatedly told before the storm that they could call Gov. Rick Scott’s personal cell phone directly for help. Cobb said they called five times, but never heard back from Scott.
Cobb said the administrators “sat there languishing waiting for the Calvary to come. … They never, ever came.”
Hashish remarked that “the real crime is that the state is looking to blame selfless caregivers and the evidence will show that no crime was committed.”
Scott said in a statement that the nursing home should have called 911.
“Nothing can hide the fact that this healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” he said. “We took steps in Florida to protect our most vulnerable, including requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have emergency backup power, to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.”
Paramedic Craig Wohlitka and other paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that he was haunted by the deaths of patients there. Fire Lt. Amy Parrinello said one of the female patients had a temperature of 107.5 degrees (42 Celsius), the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career. Later that morning, she said, another patient topped that with a temperature so high it couldn’t be measured.
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