Following Hurrican Irma, 11 nursing home residents died when a tree knocked out their air conditioning. Now, it appears that Gov. Rick Scott reportedly deleted four voicemails from the facility that he received at least 36 hours before the first person died.
CBS 4 News reports that the vice president of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Natasha Anderson, claims she called the governor’s cell phone to tell him that the home was in need of “immediate assistance.” Scott, in turn, claims that the messages did not indicate that the residents were in “crisis or that patients were in danger.” Neither claim can be confirmed, because the messages are gone:
In response to CBS4’s request for copies of the voicemails, a spokeswoman with the governor’s office, wrote in an email: “The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the Governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling.”
The messages were allegedly directed to the Department of Health, who recommended that the nursing home call 911 if they were in immediate distress, which they did not do. According to the Miami Herald, the state categorized the voicemails as “transitory messages,” which means they had limited long term value and Scott did not violate any laws by deleting them. Scott did, however, deliberately give out his cell number to nursing homes and assisted living facilities before Irma hit, for the express purpose of reporting concerns, and the recordings could have been used as evidence in the investigation—Scott’s office maintains that it wasn’t told residents were in immediate danger.
The Washington Post reports that the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration has suspended the license of Hollywood Hills, and the Miami Herald says that Scott halted Medicaid payments to the facility on Thursday. Scott seems intent on laying the blame solely at the doorstep of Hollywood Hills, and the home is clearly responsible for an unconscionable lapse in judgement and care. However, this wasn’t their first violation in Scott’s state, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.