Number of dead increases at nursing home without AC
Almost two years after Hollywood police ruled the deaths of 12 nursing home residents as homicide by heat exposure, at least four former employees of the facility are expected to surrender to arrest this week.
Defense attorneys for two nurses caught up in the police investigation of the deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills confirmed to the Miami Herald that their clients would surrender to police Monday.
Arrest warrants have been issued against four former employees, including the nursing home’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, and the head nurse on duty during the storm, Sergo Colin, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
Attorneys for Carballo and Colin expect their clients to face twelve counts of manslaughter, CBS4 reports. The other nurses are expected to face less serious charges.
“Some are facing manslaughter charges, others aren’t,” said defense attorney Lawrence Hashish, who is representing a former nurse at the facility. “We don’t know who or what.”
Lead defense attorney David Frankel did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Herald.
The impending arrests were first reported by the Sun Sentinel.
Fourteen residents between 57 and 99 years old died after Hurricane Irma knocked power to the facility for three days starting Sept. 10, 2017. Police ruled 12 of the deaths homicides due to heat exposure and made clear at the start of the investigation that criminal charges were possible.
The investigation could lead to manslaughter charges if the Broward state attorney’s office determines employees or administrators acted with culpable negligence.
The heat inside the facility was sweltering, and workers set up portable coolers to try chilling the space. The portable coolers provided about 15 tons of cooling capacity, far less than the 125 tons the facility typically required to keep residents safe.
An engineering expert testified during licensing litigation in 2018 that the temperature on the second floor of the facility would likely have exceeded 95 degrees. At least 10 of the residents who died were on the second floor, and the internal temperatures of some were recorded to be near 110 degrees.
About 140 residents were eventually evacuated on Sept. 13.
Ilham Soffan, an attorney representing a former nurse on duty during the blackout, said she was not informed of what charges her client could face. She did not identify her client but said that she was a nurse who filled in that week due to a staff shortage. Her client is going to turn herself in on Monday morning, she said.
“The staff did the best that they could considering the circumstances,” Soffan said in a statement first reported by the Sun Sentinel. “I don’t think they’re the ones who should be held accountable.”
Hashish said he was informed of the impending arrest on Friday and described the case against his client as baseless because she did not have any “decision making authority” at the facility. An arrest warrant has been issued against his client.
He said he anticipated five staffers on duty during the power outage would be arrested this week.
Administrators were aware of the conditions at the facility and visited the center before leaving nurses mostly in charge, he said.
“For the police, they were the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “But this is a bulls--- case without merit.”