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HOLLYWOOD HILLS (CBSMiami) – If there was a single tragedy that defined Hurricane Irma, it was the deaths of at least a dozen people after the loss of power knocked out the air conditioning at the Hollywood Hills nursing home.
The images from that day are unforgettable.
Nursing home residents, drenched in sweat, being wheeled into the parking lot of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.
Four people died inside the home. At least eight more perished within hours of being evacuated.
“Certainly this incident exposed some flaws and some holes in the requirements for backup power supplies but this incident was in the making for years,” said State Senator Gary Farmer, who represents Hollywood and the surrounding area.
“It goes back to the de-regulation of the nursing home industry in general, reduction in staffing ratios, loss of financial responsibility,” he argued. “One thing with capitalism, if there is no financial downside, if there is no accountability, responsibility tends to wane.”
Farmer and other in the Legislature tried to pass what they considered meaningful nursing home reform – but they couldn’t even get their bill to the floor of the Legislature for a vote
Asked what was actually accomplished in Tallahassee, he responded: “Really not much.”
The one thing the Legislature did was pass a bill requiring nursing homes to have backup generators. Farmer said it was little more than a stunt because federal regulations were going to require nursing homes to have backup generators anyway by this year.
“And we had the audacity to pass a bill that gives them some tax relief for buying a generator that they were really already required to have,” he said. “So they got a financial break to comply with the law. That’s how special interests work in Tallahassee. They tend to obfuscate things, they tend to distract people from the true issues and then they pass something and claim it’s reform when it’s really not.”
Sadly, Farmer noted, the Legislature continues to allow the nursing homes to essentially be on the honor system when it comes to protecting their residents.
“Okay we’ve got a requirement under state law that you have an emergency plan in place, but nobody goes to these facilities to inspect them and ensure that they have the supplies, the resources, the training, to implement the emergency plan when it becomes needed,” he said. “And so yeah, I am fearful that this could happen again because we haven’t addressed this problem and this potential tragedy in the way we should.”