Fla. lawmaker warned officials before retirement home tragedy

A day before eight residents from the same Florida nursing home died, Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica WilsonFlorida Dem: ‘Abomination’ that seniors were left at nursing home where 8 died Overnight Regulation: House bill to roll back labor board rules advances | New Treasury sanctions against North Korea | Watchdog finds fraud in FCC internet program GOP bill to roll back labor relations board rules advances in House MORE joined other state and federal officials on a Hurricane Irma recovery conference call and warned the situation could quickly turn deadly if power is not restored to local senior facilities.

The Florida Democrat’s phone had been ringing nonstop since Hurricane Irma knocked out power to much of South Florida on Sept. 10. Wilson has 100 long-term care facilities in her Miami-area district, and many were begging her to help get the power — and the air conditioning — back on.

“Immediately, I started to get calls. A lot of them didn’t have power, and that’s why I was raising a concern,” Wilson told The Hill of the Sept. 12 conference call hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“My message was: They needed to assist with turning the lights on and getting the generators fixed in those nursing homes, because someone is going to die,” Wilson continued.

Wilson’s account of the call suggests that officials at all levels of government — including FEMA, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) office and members of Congress — were all made aware of the dangerous and deteriorating conditions at local nursing homes at least 12 hours before the first resident died at the sweltering Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

A Wilson aide who listened in on the Sept. 12 call said the congresswoman had warned that dozens of nursing homes without air conditioning were facing emergencies given the stifling Florida heat and the poor health conditions of many elderly residents. The 2 p.m. call was one of FEMA’s daily conference calls held before and after the storm to help government officials coordinate their response and give elected officials an opportunity to voice concerns or share information.

“Legislators get to ask questions, and they are supposed to follow up,” explained Wilson, who joined many of these daily FEMA calls. “You want to ask me if they are good about it? I don’t think so.”

Eleven deaths are now being blamed on the air-conditioning failure at the Hollywood Hills rehab center after Hurricane Irma; eight…

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