RE: Nursing Home Deaths: Neglect and False Charting Played a Role, Says Police Chief

According to an article by ABC news, four employees of a south Florida nursing home were arrested last week in connection with the deaths of 12 elderly residents who perished from heatstroke in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Irma-related power loss at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills resulted in soaring temperatures inside the facility, but no measures were taken by staff to evacuate patients. Of the 14 resident deaths that occurred at the facility, 12 were ruled a homicide by the Broward County medical examiner, and a subsequent criminal investigation led to last week’s arrest of the rehabilitation center’s former administrator, night nursing supervisor, and two nurses.

“This was a terrible tragedy that should have never happened,” said Hollywood Chief of Police Chris O’Brien. “These are trained professionals that should have been aware of the environmental hazards that were taking place in that facility and they chose to ignore them.”

The four arrested former employees were charged with varying counts of felony aggravated manslaughter; additionally, the two nurses have been charged with tampering with evidence in connection with patient medical records, an act of false charting that appears, said O’Brien, to be an attempt to cover up evidence of neglect.

According to O’Brien, when police arrived at the rehabilitation center on September 13, 2017, temperature conditions within the facility were sweltering and numerous patients were in medical distress. Paramedics found three patients already dead and several overheated. No one had made the move to evacuate any of the residents, despite the fact that a fully-operational hospital was located across the street. One patient registered a temperature of 107 degrees.

Major Steven Bolger, head of criminal investigation for the Hollywood Police Department, claimed the investigation following the event has been extensive, involving the collection of over 1,000 pieces of evidence, the review of more 400 hours of surveillance, and the interview of more than 500 people.  The investigation, which has involved the State Attorney of Broward County as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is still ongoing. According to O’Brien, more arrests are expected.

These arrests came to light just as another hurricane, Dorian, threatened to thrash the east coast of Florida with Category 5 force. According to an assessment at that time, it was determined that nursing homes around the state were still unprepared to deal with hurricane-related power outages.

False Charting and Neglect Amount to Elder Abuse

In critical situations, inaction by nursing home staff equates to neglect, which is a very real type of elder abuse. Although less well-known, any action to conceal mistakes by false charting is likewise a type of elder abuse. If you suspect that neglect or abuse or an attempt to cover up wrongful behavior through false charting has occurred at a Philadelphia/PA or NJ facility where your loved one resides, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.