HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - A criminal investigation has been launched into the deaths of six patients at a Florida nursing home in Irma's aftermath.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related. He said the building has been sealed off for the criminal investigation but didn't give further details.
A total of 115 patients were evacuated from the nursing home, which lost power in the storm and had no air conditioning. Sanchez did not answer questions regarding whether a generator was running inside the place.
Jean Lindor, a kitchen worker, said through a Haitian Creole translator that the air conditioner had not been working since the storm and it had been hot inside.
Paulburn Bogle, a member of the housekeeping staff, said the place had been hot but manageable the past few days. The staff used fans, put cold towels and ice on the patients and gave them cold drinks.
The manager of the nursing home has a history of health-care fraud accusations.
Federal court records show the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami filed civil charges in 2004 against Dr. Jack Michel, several other individuals, and several businesses, including Larkin Health Systems, which owns the nursing home.
In 1997, before Michel owned Larkin, federal prosecutors said he and others participated in a kickback scheme that involved paying doctors for referrals and admission to Larkin Community Hospital. Prosecutors said that after he bought the hospital in 1998, Michel and others fraudulently increased the number of patients at the facility, along with their Medicare and Medicaid revenues, by bringing in patients from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
The case was settled in 2006 for $15.4 million.
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