U.S. Senate panel launches investigation into Florida nursing home deaths

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By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 18, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCTV) -- The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has announced it is launching an investigation into the deaths of 14 residents at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida.

The deaths occurred at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning.

On Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) questioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements.

In a letter to CMS, the senators wrote, "As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, we have a responsibility to ensure that [nursing homes] are habitable for all residents, including the many Medicare and Medicaid patients served by these facilities. Since publication of the [Emergency Preparedness] Final Rule, fourteen residents of the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills….have died because the facility’s air conditioning system lost power during Hurricane Irma. Similar reports after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma raise concerns about the adequacy of emergency preparedness and response at nursing homes and other facilities. Our Committee would like information about the Federal requirements that were applicable during these events and the actions CMS has taken since."

Officials say the Hollywood facility did not have a backup source of energy to power its air conditioning unit and was unable to maintain safe temperatures after the facility lost power during Irma.

Earlier this month, the state suspended the nursing home's license and the facility laid off 245 workers.

The Senate Finance Committee's full letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma is available here.

The Senate Finance Committee's full letter to Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior is available here.

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