Sunday, August 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: No Floridian should survive hurricane, die in heat

Let's get this straight: Senior citizens survived Hurricane Irma only to die afterward in the heat? It is beyond outrageous that eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood died in a building left without air conditioning after the hurricane hit South Florida. A criminal investigation is under way, and the state needs to work with local agencies across the state to review the standards that all types of facilities caring for vulnerable seniors must meet in an emergency. This was a preventable tragedy that cannot be repeated.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County reported it had electricity, but the storm apparently knocked out a transformer that powered the facility's air conditioning. At least three of Wednesday's deaths occurred at the nursing home. Police said that shortly after they responded to a distress call, the facility started moving patients, sending dozens to area hospitals, including one just across the street that never lost power. By late Wednesday afternoon, five more had died. Hollywood police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths were heat-related. Other seniors were treated for dehydration, difficulty breathing and other heat-related illnesses. The dead included five women and three men, ages 70 to 99.

Gov. Rick Scott declared he would "aggressively demand answers" to the tragedy, which he called "unfathomable." He also directed the state health care agency, which is investigating, to impose a moratorium barring the facility from accepting new patients. The center has a state health inspection rating of below average and has links to a local hospital with a troubled history.

Already, those involved with ensuring the patients' safety have been trading blame. In general, Florida requires nursing homes to maintain a "safe" temperature of about 80 degrees, in addition to three days' worth of backup power and emergency supplies. At issue is whether the nursing home clearly identified its power problems to authorities, whether the power company reacted in a timely manner and whether local emergency management officials took adequate steps to ensure the facility was operating properly.

The three state and local investigations need to clearly identify what went wrong and who was to blame. They also need to provide a chronology of how these victims fell through so many cracks. Though no deaths have been reported in the Tampa Bay area, several senior living facilities went without power this week in the aftermath of Irma. The director of an assisted living facility without power in Hillsborough County said he pleaded repeatedly for help as his patients sweltered; county officials said they were unaware of the situation. A senior living center in Clearwater went days without electricity and cool air and with a generator to power only the elevator and emergency lights. The owner of that facility brought in food. But authorities in both cases essentially left these seniors to fend for themselves.

In Pinellas County alone, officials count 55 nursing homes and 125 assisted living facilities. Florida has the highest percentage of residents 65 years old and older in the nation. The avoidable deaths in South Florida and the episodes related to heat in Tampa Bay facilities require a thorough state and local review of regulations regarding nursing homes, ALFs and other operations catering to seniors who are the most vulnerable. Protocols during hurricanes, requirements for air conditioning and priorities for restoring power should be examined. No senior citizen in any of these facilities should fear dying after a hurricane because they could not stand the heat.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

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Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18