(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) — An emergency cellphone assigned to the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott was called by nursing home officials at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills asking for assistance, the governor’s office confirmed to ABC News Friday.
Eight residents of the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, died this week after the facility’s air conditioning system failed in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The calls to the emergency cellphone were then referred to two other agencies, the governor’s office said.
John Tupps, Scott’s communications director, alleged that, “Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.”
Scott said in a statement earlier this week that he was “heartbroken” to learn of the deaths and planned to “aggressively demand answers.”
“If they find that anyone wasn’t acting in the best interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” the governor said.
Most of the deceased were treated for respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues. Some of the patients admitted to nearby Memorial Regional Hospital had temperatures of up to 106 degrees, hospital officials said Thursday.
Their ages ranged from 71 to 99, according to police.
The city first “became [aware] a crisis was unfolding at the facility after multiple calls in the early morning hours” Wednesday, city spokesperson Raelin Storey said Thursday.
Hollywood Fire Rescue crews responded to the nursing home for a call at about 3 a.m. Wednesday regarding a patient who was reportedly in cardiac arrest. That patient was transported to a hospital, police said.
At 4 a.m., firefighters were sent back to the facility to transport a patient reportedly experiencing breathing problems, police said. After the second call, fire officials called the state Department of Children and Families to report concerns about the facility.
A third call later came in as well, police said. After additional crews arrived, three patients were found dead on the second floor of the nursing home, and several other patients were found to be in “varying degrees of medical distress,” authorities said.
The nursing home eventually evacuated all of its patients Wednesday morning at the order of the responding crews.
Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement 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.”
Hollywood police are investigating the eight deaths.
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