ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Eight patients at a sweltering Hollywood, Florida, nursing home have died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, raising fears about the safety of Florida's 4 million senior citizens, including some who live in St. Johns County.
Police said the air conditioning at the nursing home was not working, and they are conducting a criminal investigation.
Several people contacted News4Jax on Wednesday to express concerns about the possibility of that happening in St. Augustine.
News4Jax anchor and reporter Kent Justice went there to find out what’s being done to protect the people who live in Moultrie Creek Nursing Home.
The nursing home in St. Augustine was still hurting from Hurricane Irma.
News4Jax received an email saying, in part, "It seems to me there is no concern/consideration by the admin (or staff) to evacuate and remove the patients to a facility that does have electricity and AC. Considering this is Florida that seems absurd to me and after hearing about deaths in Hollywood I thought our community and our news organization may be able to address the situation in order to help the patients.”
When Justice arrived at Moultrie Creek, an administrator, Jason Davis, invited him inside without his camera.
He confirmed that the home does not have main power, but it does have a generator and is fully functional -- except for air conditioning.
The apparent cause of the power outage was a nearby tree that fell on power lines. The nursing home was told by Florida Power & Light that the utility company is working on it, and sent a truck Wednesday. But it was the wrong kind of equipment, so now FPL is working to get a new unit and fix the problem.
Davis told Justice: Laundry is operational, the kitchen is operational, fans are blowing cool air into rooms across the center and nurses are checking on residents constantly -- and any with medical issues would immediately be sent to the hospital.
Jackie Gaddis, whose mother lives at the nursing home, approached Justice and said she’s confident her mother is being well cared for.
"Her room, everything is all intact. They had everything boarded up. It's not boarded up so we can't let the windows up if we need be. I'm not concerned," Gaddis said. "When the storm came, I thanked God she was here because I didn't have to worry. I could pick up the phone and they know me by name. They're, like, 'Your mom's fine.' So I'm 100 percent comfortable with them there."
Justice asked the administrator about temperatures inside without AC. Davis told him rooms have not gone above 80 degrees, and if there were any life-threatening issues, he would evacuate the entire building.