No Criminal Charges Filed Against FL Nursing Home Staff for Irma Deaths
FLORIDA – According to an online news report from naplesnews.com, no criminal charges have been filed against the staff members of a Florida nursing home where 12 people died in 2017 during Hurricane Irma. It is unlikely they ever will.*
In 2017, Hurricane Irma knocked out the power to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, and residents were stuck with no air conditioning during a period of sweltering heat. The nursing home staff failed to transport the residents elsewhere, including to a hospital that was across the street, and 12 people died as a result.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) quickly investigated the case and banned the center from admitting new patients, as well as stopped Medicaid payments to the facility. Less than two weeks after the storm hit Florida, AHCA suspended the nursing home’s state license and took steps toward shutting down the facility. However, no criminal charges have been filed against the staff members of the nursing home, and it is unlikely anyone will ever face criminal penalties for the 12 deaths.
According to the Naples News report, prosecutors in Florida are reluctant to pursue nursing home abuse cases, saying they are difficult cases to handle and to win. From 2013 to 2017, 54 deaths that occurred at Florida nursing homes were found by the Florida Department of Children and Families to have been caused by staff neglect or mistreatment. None of these cases resulted in arrests or criminal prosecution.
In fact, most cases of nursing home abuse and neglect — many of which result in death — do not even receive a thorough investigation from AHCA. The cases that do involve AHCA rarely result in penalties from the agency. The AHCA-enforced consequences for the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were uncommon actions from the agency, potentially motivated by the media attention focused on the patients’ deaths.
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