HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) — Tracy Meltzer remembers the moment she arrived on the sweltering second floor of The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills shortly after Hurricane Irma.
“When the elevator opened, the heat was like a blast of heat,” Meltzer said, “like when you open your car door at the end of the day after it’s been sitting out.”
Douglas LaMendola recalls when he raced onto the first floor.
“At the time, going in and turning down the hallway, I smelled urine, feces,very strong odors,” he said.
Both people worked next door at Memorial Regional and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. They each helped out after learning patients were in trouble when Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at the nursing home.
Meltzer went in to several rooms.
“She had sunken eyes. She was curled up in a fetal position and she just looked at me with her eyes. She was non-verbal,” she recalled. “Then I went into a room and found two gentlemen dead in their beds,” she said.
LaMendola said as he checked rooms, he assured a patient she would get out soon.
“She said, ‘Thank God,’ She goes, ‘Do I have to jump out the window? I said, ‘No dear, you don’t have to do anything, the firemen are taking you out of here.'”
A hearing was underway to determine if the nursing home’s license will be permanently revoked. It was suspended after 12 patients died.
Lawyers for the nursing home say staff did everything possible to save lives, including many calls to FPL to fix the power and pleas to the governor.
The hearing will continue through the rest of this week.
Seven members of the fire department and EMS are set to testify.
Later this week, we will hear from the Medical Examiner’s office.
After this week, the hearing will recess for a month, then resume in March.