A 10th senior citizen who had been a resident of a sweltering Broward County nursing home evacuated last week has died, according to a report issued Thursday by the Hollywood Police Department.
Martha Murray, 94, died Wednesday, the report said. Murray is the latest death associated with The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a nursing home that lost air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to one of the facility's transformers.
But a statement from Kirsten Ullman, co-counsel for the nursing home, implied that Murray was a terminally ill hospice patient.
“Hollywood Hills cares for residents, including residents in hospice care in terminal condition. There has been a report of a resident who was discharged from Hollywood Hills one week ago who has passed away. Hollywood Hills has not been provided any information regarding this former resident's passing. Hollywood Hills sends deepest condolences to the family at this time of loss,” Ullman said in the statement.
Eight other residents of the Broward County facility died Sept. 13, three days after Irma shut down air conditioning to the 152-bed nursing home. Hollywood police reported Tuesday that a ninth resident had died.
Hollywood police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are conducting criminal investigations into the deaths, and the FDLE has launched a tip line seeking information related to the probe. Investigators “are asking anyone with information about the deaths or the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center” between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13 to call the hotline at 866-452-3461, according to a news release issued Thursday by FDLE.
The deaths of the seniors, who ranged in age from 71 to 99, has prompted a legal and regulatory fight between Gov. Rick Scott's administration and the nursing home. Scott's administration on Wednesday issued an emergency suspension of the facility's license, after last week placing a moratorium on admissions and suspending the nursing home from the Medicaid program.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the admissions moratorium and the Medicaid cutoff. The emergency suspension order, signed by Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior, alleged that the nursing home “failed to maintain safe conditions in its facility,” failed to evacuate the facility once conditions were no longer safe and “failed to timely contact `911' during a medical emergency.”
Ullman, however, maintained that caregivers “continuously monitored” residents, offered them hydration and “implemented efforts to keep the facility temperatures as comfortable as possible.”