Florida Congresswoman Introducing Legislation To Ensure Safety In Nursing Homes After Natural Disasters

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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Irma brought pain and suffering for people all across the state of Florida.

One of the biggest tragedies took place in Hollywood, when fourteen people died in a nursing home after it lost power for several days.

With no air conditioning, patients suffered from extreme heat in the Rehabilitation Center at the Hollywood Hills nursing home.

No one at the facility called 911 until people started dying, though calls were made to FPL, the Florida Department of Emergency Management and Governor Rick Scott’s personal cell phone after the power went out.

The center has since been shut down but elected officials are working to ensure something like that never happens again.

On Monday Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced legislation that she hopes will create a mandate for facilities to have an alternate source of energy in place, capable of powering proper air conditioning systems for at least 96 hours following a natural disaster.

Additionally, the legislation will also ensure that nursing homes are a top priority for power restoration following an outage.

Fines will be increased for facilities that don’t comply with the emergency preparedness rules as well.

The families of victims of what Wasserman Schultz called a horrific tragedy stood with her as she announced new legislation aimed at nursing homes Monday.

“Stunningly over three days the nursing the home that was mere steps from a major hospital had turned into a sweltering sauna,” said Wasserman Schultz.

Carol Gonzalez’s 79-year-old father Pedro Ramos was among the survivors, but left the Hollywood Nursing facility that made headlines for its power failure, with his own kidney failure, dehydration and suffering from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Nobody told us anything or gave us any explanation about what happened to my father,” she said.

Pedro Franco lost both of his parents, Miguel and Cecilia Franco.

“Besides wishing for this bill to pass we want justice, we trusted these people,” he said.

That bill is set to be introduced by Wasserman Schultz, setting up stringent new requirements for nursing homes.

“The protections that are supposed to keep our most vulnerable failed and did not keep them safe, this can never be allowed to happen again,” said Wasserman Schultz.

The Hollywood Hills facility had been repeatedly cited for egregious patient care practices.

The owner of Hollywood Hills, Jack Michel, also an owner of Larkin Hospital in South Miami.

In 2006, Michel and other Larkin owners were fined $15.4 million by the U.S. Justice Department in the settlement of a civil fraud complaint alleging kickback charges.

Michel and his associates have been accused of Medicare and Medicaid fraud by funneling patients to Larkin, as well as some from other facilities that Michel owns, for treatment that was not needed.

Michel’s Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is fighting revocation of its license, even as a criminal investigation of the death and dying there continues.

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