A search warrant has been granted for a Florida nursing home where eight patients died after Hurricane Irma as investigators continue their criminal investigation into the incident. (Sept. 14) AP
Florida regulators started the process Thursday to shutter an assisted living facility in Miami run by the owner of the Hollywood nursing home where 11 people died after Hurricane Irma cut power.
The Agency for Health Care Administration issued a notice to Floridian Gardens Assisted Living Facility outlining the agency's intent to yank the facility from the state’s Medicaid program.
This follows steps regulators have taken since December to deny Floridian Gardens’ license renewal.
Floridian Gardens is owned by Dr. Jack J. Michel, a Miami physician who also owns the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Eleven patients died after spending several days in sweltering heat inside the Hollywood nursing home after Hurricane Irma knocked out power.
The state suspended the Hollywood Hills license last week.
“The Floridians Gardens Assisted Living Facility and Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills have demonstrated without a doubt that they do not deserve to be trusted with patients’ lives, especially those who are vulnerable and unable to care for themselves,” AHCA Secretary Justin Senior said in a prepared statement.
Senior added that his agency is working with the Florida Department of Children and Families and others to assist with resident notification and relocation options.
A lawyer for Floridian Gardens vowed to challenge the state's actions in court.
"We believe that the proposed actions to deny renewal of the facility license and to terminate the facility from the Medicaid program are completely unwarranted and are not supported by any facts or law that would allow for such actions by the AHCA," Geoffrey D. Smith said in a statement issued after the agency's announcement. "We are confident that the proposed punitive actions by AHCA will not be supported by the evidence and that the judge will enter an order in favor of Floridian Gardens."
Floridian Gardens is about an hour south of the Hollywood Hills nursing home in Broward County.
State regulators initially filed notice on Dec. 22 of their intent to deny Floridian Gardens’ license renewal, citing dozens of deficiencies in a variety of areas, including staffing standards, training, assisting residents with medication, resident care and food service, according to ACHA records. The violations included sexual assault of patients, low staffing and ignoring patients.
Floridian Gardens challenged the action in January. AHCA's action Thursday is the latest step in the pending case, with the agency adding to its initial denial notice information about the deaths at the Hollywood Hills nursing home.
On Aug. 24, three weeks before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, state regulators lifted a ban on new patients at Floridian Gardens.
For more than a decade, state and federal authorities have cited Michel’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities for health and safety violations and questionable billing practices.
Hollywood Police and other agencies launched a criminal investigation Sept. 13, after the first eight deaths at the Hollywood Hills facility. Some of the victims had body temperatures over 108 degrees.
In a lawsuit filed in Leon County Circuit Court, the nursing home argued it had followed an emergency plan overseen by Broward County as it prepared for Irma. Staff did everything possible to seek help from Florida Power & Light to restore power to its air conditioning system, the nursing home argued, and staff called 911 as patients’ conditions deteriorated due to the heat.
Lawyers for the nursing home have called the state’s actions to shutter the Hollywood Hills facility “illegal and improper.”