“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 the governor’s communications director, John Tupps.
The governor’s office said that the home, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, had reported on the state’s facility-monitoring database as late as Tuesday evening that its heating and cooling systems were operational, and did not report the failure of those systems until early Wednesday morning.
It was not immediately clear why, when technicians did not arrive and the heat became oppressive, the staff did not evacuate residents.
But Julie Allison, a lawyer for the nursing home, said that “there was no indication they needed to be evacuated until the early morning hours” of Wednesday, when residents started to fall ill.
A nursing home official, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing, said that the administrator, Jorge Carballo, who is not a clinician, reported that all the patients had been checked by around 11 p.m. on Tuesday. The patients’ temperatures were taken every eight hours, and there were no reports that any were outside of expected ranges.
The Agency for Health Care Administration said the responsibility for the loss of life ultimately belonged to the nursing home.
“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,” Mallory McManus, the agency’s communications director, wrote in an email. “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.”
Florida Power & Light declined to comment on the nursing home’s account, citing the ongoing investigations. On Wednesday, it released a statement saying that it had been emphasizing to customers that those with electricity-dependent medical needs should call 911 if they are in a life-threatening situation.
The utility also said the nursing home was not on its highest priority list for restoring power, and said that the decision had been made in coordination with county officials. “Other critical facilities, such as hospitals and 911 centers, were identified as higher priorities,” it said.
But Broward County previously said that it prioritized its facilities based on a guidance document from the utility, which categorizes nursing homes as “noncritical.” The utility declined to release the guidance document “due to security and customer privacy concerns.”
The county said that it had asked the power company to escalate the Rehabilitation Center on its priority list after the county’s emergency operations center received a call from the home on Tuesday morning. The Broward mayor, Barbara Sharief, asked executives from the power company to consider all the nursing homes and senior communities in the “critical” category, but was told there were too many to do so. The county said it was not aware of the emergency situation at the Rehabilitation Center.
Manor Pines Convalescent Center in Fort Lauderdale took in 14 of the Rehabilitation Center’s residents, who showed up without a change of clothing, dentures and other belongings, according to Bill Savett, the administrator. “To my knowledge we haven’t received the personal effects to this point because the facility was turned into a crime scene,” he said.
He said his facility, too, lacked power for several days. “I made at least 12 calls to Florida Power & Light,” he said, adding that some of those times he couldn’t get through. He was told his nursing home was not a priority and was not given an estimated time of repair. “If I had that time, I would know better to plan for the safety of my residents,” he said.
Ms. Anderson, the Larkin executive, said she had watched as the problem was fixed at the Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday, when the power company finally arrived.
“It took 20 minutes to resolve the issue,” she said. “It’s devastating.”
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