At least 11 Florida nursing home residents lost their lives due to hazardous conditions and stifling indoor temperatures following Hurricane Irma, which caused a loss of air conditioning in the facility.
When police officers entered The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 13, they found three residents dead and declined to share the building’s temperature, instead saying it was “very hot,” according to NPR’s The Two-Way. It was also included that the Memorial Regional Hospital, across the street from the nursing home, treated patients for “respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues.”
Controversy has arisen over the nursing home’s failure to remove their patients from the overheated facility. By Thursday Sept. 21, the death toll increased to 11 people, after police launched a criminal investigation and the state Agency for Health Care Administration suspended the nursing home’s license, according to USA Today.
Students and faculty in John Brown University’s Nursing and Family and Human Services Departments were asked about their opinions on the nursing home’s actions.
Assistant Professor of Nursing Education Kristin McCloud, MSN RN, called the event a “needless tragedy” and expressed concern for the facility’s inadequate response. She listed off “very simple procedures” to cool patients off. These included putting bags of ice under patients’ arms and on their necks and wetting their skin as they sat in front of a fan.
“That evaporation is what cools people off,” McCloud said. She said that these procedures “would have kept people from having these symptoms and possibly, most likely, have kept them from dying.”
Sharing a personal connection, nursing sophomore China Armstrong has an 81-year-old grandmother who is in a wheelchair and has dementia. Her grandmother currently resides in a Texas nursing home.
Imagining the extreme conditions, Armstrong pointed out that “They can’t take care of themselves, and if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, it would be extremely hard because they’d be really agitated.”
Armstrong believes that the nursing home is responsible for their patients’ deaths, saying, “I feel like there should be justice for those people who didn’t have someone to take care of them.”
Rachel Grimes, freshman family and human services major, said that the event was “awful” and that it showed the character of the facility. “This situation really opens your eyes to how our society views the elderly,” Grimes said. “In the Bible, it talks about how we are to take care of the less fortunate. In my mind, ‘less fortunate’ includes people who cannot live on their own.”
Grimes continued. “I could not imagine losing my grandparent that is 70 years old or 90 years old to a heat stroke in a nursing home when right across the street there was a hospital. That’s tragic, and that should not happen. Something like that should not take place. . .what does that say about us?”