WASHINGTON – Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday obliquely criticized Gov. Rick Scott over the deaths of eight residents of a South Florida nursing home.
In a speech from the Senate floor, Nelson spoke of a “great, great tragedy” and referenced the phone calls nursing home officials made directly to Scott as the crisis mounted. (Scott has said all calls were sent to the proper place.)
“Why there is not a requirement that every nursing home or assisted living facility, an ALF, have a generator, not only for power, for things like lights, but have a generator capacity that will run air conditioning units, why there is not a requirement for that in Florida I think is going to be the subject of great debate and I hoping changing that requirement in the state of Florida because eight people died. Eight people died in a nursing home right across the street from a major hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Eight frail elderly from ages 70 to 99, eight needless deaths as a result -- we will know -- a criminal investigation is under way.
“All the phone calls that had been made that were not answered, both to the government as well as to the power company, as reported by the press -- specifically a Miami television station. We don't know all the facts. It'll come out in the criminal investigation. But it is inexcusable that eight frail elderly people would die over heat exhaustion by being left to their condition to deteriorate over the course of three or four days. What is wrong with the regulatory scheme that does not have a backup generator that would kick in? I mean, in fact, the hospital right across the street had it. So what was the disconnect there?
“Why did it take days and days until 911 was called? This we will find out in this great tragedy, but I can tell you that The Miami Herald had done a series over the last couple of years, three investigative pieces, that in fact point out that these ALF's in these nursing homes and have not properly managed or regulated by the state of Florida. To be determined.”
Nelson, likely to face a challenge next year from Scott, did not comment over the weekend as other Democrats piled on Scott. The governor has pushed back against implications he did not act, saying the nursing home bore the responsibility.
But Scott also moved to enact emergency rules requiring assisted living facilities to provide power generators.
John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, said in a statement: “Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.”
Tupps echoed the governor, saying health care providers know to call 911 in an emergency and that there was a hospital across the street with power.