KHN Morning Briefing

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8 Dead At Nursing Home Where Air Conditioner Failed In Wake Of Hurricane Irma

Dozens more patients were found in distress, as well. The deaths have prompted a criminal investigation.

The New York Times: Eight Dead From Sweltering Nursing Home As Florida Struggles After Irma
The first patient was rushed into the emergency room of Memorial Regional Hospital around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, escaping a nursing home that had lost air-conditioning in the muggy days after Hurricane Irma splintered power lines across the state. Another arrived at 4 a.m. After a third rescue call, around 5 a.m., the hospital’s staff was concerned enough to walk down the street to check the building themselves. What they found was an oven. (Reisner, Fink and Yee, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Manager Of Nursing Home Where 8 Died Has Been Charged Before
The manager of a Florida nursing home where eight people died following Hurricane Irma has a history of health-care fraud accusations. Federal court records show the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami filed civil charges in 2004 against Dr. Jack Michel and Larkin Health Systems, among others. That company owns The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had eight patients pronounced dead Wednesday. (Fischer, 9/13)

The Washington Post: Eight Dead After South Florida Nursing Home's Air Conditioning Fails Following Hurricane Irma
"We believe at this time it may be related to the loss of power in the storm," Tomas Sanchez, the Hollywood police chief, said at a news briefing Wednesday. "It's a sad event." Police later said they are working to determine what caused the tragedy, but early indications pointed at the air conditioning in the facility. "The initial investigation has determined that the facility's air conditioning system was not fully functional," Hollywood city officials said in a statement Wednesday evening. "Portable [air-conditioning] units were being used in the facility, but the facility was excessively hot." (Berman, Zezima and Davis, 9/13)

Stat: Florida Nursing Home Where 8 Deaths Occurred Had Repeat Safety Violations
The Florida nursing home where overheating may have caused eight deaths and led to a mass evacuation of over 100 residents has a checkered history of safety inspections, including repeated problems with its generator, STAT has found. Around 6 a.m. Wednesday morning local police officers responded to Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a 152-bed facility located 30 minutes north of Miami, where they found patients in “varying degrees of medical distress,” three of them deceased, according to a police report. (Blau, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Oldest Residents' Safety More Vulnerable During Disasters
Like clockwork, stories of suffering by the oldest residents in the line of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters seem to follow. Regulations dictate nursing homes and other facilities must have preparation plans in place, but the realities of how older Americans cope with a storm go beyond any piece of paper. The issue burst to the forefront again Wednesday with news of eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida, where workers say Hurricane Irma caused the air conditioning to fail, and they struggled to keep residents cool with fans, cold towels and ice. A look at the issues at play in keeping the oldest safe in the line of disaster. (Sedensky, 9/14)

Health News Florida: Hurricane Irma Causes Sewage Spills Around The State
Rain and power outages from Hurricane Irma led to sewage spills across Florida, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. St. Petersburg again reported spills but the wastewater plant that caused the city to release more than 100 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay last year didn’t have any problems. (Ochoa, 9/13)

Meanwhile, fallout continues from Harvey —

NPR: Harvey Spawns Air Pollution Problems In Houston
On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess." And yet, something was wrong. The air was heavy with the smell of gasoline and other harder-to-place odors. The neighborhood is ringed by industrial sites, the biggest of which is the Valero oil refinery. (Hersher and Schaper, 9/14)

Houston Chronicle: Midtown's San José Clinic Offering Affordable Medical Care For Uninsured Harvey Victims 
As displaced residents struggle to rebuild their lives and homes, many are facing heightened financial burdens in post-Harvey Houston. Some locals are struggling to afford even basic healthcare. San José Clinic, a 95-year-old institution that offers affordable healthcare for low-income uninsured patients, is seeking support from the public to help those affected by Harvey. (Guillen, 9/13)

And in Montana —

NPR: Filtering Wildfire Smoke From Classrooms Takes A Village
More than a million acres of Montana forests and rangeland have burned this year, so far, causing unhealthy air across the state since mid-July. In August the Missoula County health department took the unprecedented step of advising the entire town of Seeley Lake to evacuate due to smoke; air there has been classified as "hazardous" levels for 35 days in August 1. (Saks, 9/13)

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