4 employees to face charges in Florida nursing home deaths after Hurricane Irma, lawyer says

Four people will be charged in the deaths of 12 nursing home residents who died after being exposed to extreme heat following Hurricane Irma in 2017, a lawyer connected to the case told CNN on Monday.

Arrest warrants are expected to be issued for Jorge Carballo, the administrator and CEO, a charge (supervisory) nurse and two other nurses who worked at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida, during the hurricane, according to Jay Cobb, an attorney who represents Caballo.

“They did their jobs to the best of their ability in a natural disaster emergency,” said Cobb.

Hollywood police will announce charges stemming from its criminal investigation on Tuesday, a news release from the department stated. Manslaughter is expected to be among the charges filed against each of the defendants, Cobb said.

The charges are the result of an investigation that began in 2017 into the deaths of 12 residents who ranged in age from 71 to 99 years old.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall on Marco Island on Sunday, September 10, 2017. As the hurricane swept north and east, a falling tree knocked out the transformer powering the air conditioning system in the nursing home in Hollywood, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Elderly residents of the home suffered in the heat for days.

Officials first learned that the patients had experienced hazardous heat conditions on the following Wednesday, but by then eight residents had been confirmed dead. Three more residents died the following week, and a 57-year-old woman died one week after that.

CNN also spoke with Lawrence Hashish, an attorney for one of the nurses facing charges.

His client and three others were all told to turn themselves in by Monday, said Hashish, who did not name the nurse he represented. Hashish accompanied his client, who surrendered at the county jail.

His client, who was working as a temp at Rehabilitation Center, was filling in for one day on the night shift during the aftermath of Irma, Hashish said. He said that he does not believe his client should be blamed for the deaths.

David Frankel, a lawyer for the charge nurse, emphasized at a Monday news conference that the nursing home staff had reached out for assistance.

“These people, did everything they could. They were calling for emergency help. They were promised they were going to get help and they were abandoned,” said Frankel.

He also explained why the staff didn’t declare an emergency sooner: “Everybody was stable until about one o’clock in the morning on Wednesday.” And when visiting family members left, “there were no problems,” Frankel said.

Hollywood police did not immediately return CNN’s call seeking comment.

In the days following the deaths of 12 residents, Gov. Rick Scott set new emergency requirements for the state’s nursing homes.

The measures mandate that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have supplies, power and resources, including a generator and adequate fuel, to sustain operations and maintain a comfortable temperature for at least 96 hours after a power outage.

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