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Tenth patient dead after Florida nursing home lost air conditioning in Hurricane Irma

John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images
John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images

(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) — A 10th person has died after a Florida nursing home lost its air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, subjecting the residents to sweltering heat.

Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills resident Martha Murray, 94, died Wednesday, the Hollywood Police Department announced in a press release.

Florida officials have suspended the nursing home’s license in the wake of the deaths. The facility is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

More than 100 residents were evacuated from the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, on Sept. 13 after the facility’s air conditioning system failed.

Medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, which is near the nursing home, described a chaotic scene of evacuating the patients from the nursing home after three came into the emergency room with “extraordinarily high temperatures.”

Some of the patients who were admitted to the hospital had temperatures of up to 106 degrees, hospital officials told ABC News. Once hospital staff realized something was amiss at the nursing home, they went into a mass casualty incident mode and began wheeling patients from the nursing home to the hospital on stretchers.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable.

On Friday, a Miami law firm filed an emergency complaint against the nursing home requesting that a judge grant an order to protect evidence. The complaint alleges that the center became aware that its air conditioning had “ceased to operate effectively and appropriately” days before several residents died.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement last week that the facility was evacuated Wednesday “due to a prolonged power failure to the transformer, which powered the facility’s air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane.”

“Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected,” he added.

In a later statement, Carballo said, “The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared” for the hurricane.

“We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators,” he said. “While our center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”

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