U.S. Senate panel launches inquiry into 14 resident deaths at Florida nursing home

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday sent letters to Florida and federal health officials requesting information about the deaths of 14 residents of a Broward County nursing home after Hurricane Irma and steps the state has taken to protect seniors.

The committee, in a letter to Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior, seeks a wide range of information, including information about “statewide emergency preparedness and response requirements that applied at the time of Hurricane Irma to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida.”

It also asks detailed questions about The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which lost its air-conditioning system Sept. 10 because of Hurricane Irma. On Sept. 13, eight residents of the sweltering nursing home died, and six others died later after evacuation.

The Senate Finance Committee oversees the Medicaid and Medicare programs, which help fund nursing homes.

“As part of our oversight responsibilities, we want to ensure the safety of residents and patients in nursing homes and other similar facilities during natural and man-made disasters,” said the letter to the state signed by committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

In a letter to Seema Verma, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Hatch and Wyden asked about federal requirements for emergency preparedness at nursing homes and similar facilities and sought information about the Broward home.

“Explain if CMS (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has terminated its agreement with Hollywood Hills or any related facility that shares common ownership with Hollywood Hills and, if so, please provide copies of the termination notice,” the letter to Verma said. “If CMS has not terminated its agreement with Hollywood Hills, or any related facility that shares common ownership with Hollywood Hills, please explain why.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., sent a letter to Hatch and Wyden on Sept. 29 seeking an investigation into the deaths.


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