Finger pointing in Florida after 8 die from nursing home power outage

Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills Florida, Photo Date: 9/13/2017
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FLORIDA -- (WTVY) Just a day after 8 patients in a sweltering south Florida nursing home lost their lives, patients at other nursing homes around the state are also reporting unbearable heat, with widespread power outages knocking out air conditioning.
There's a lot of finger pointing going on and a lot of mixed messages about who dropped the ball in south Florida.
And who there* is in charge of preventing a repeat.
To a large extent, after years of deregulation of Florida's nursing home industry, the state doesn't have the oversight it once did.
It's the furor after the storm.
"I want to express my condolences to the families of those deceased."
Falling victim to a nursing home system that's been failing them.
Not just in Hollywood, where eight seniors have died, but in Tampa Bay also.
"There's no AC."
Still more seniors have complained about sweltering conditions.
"There's no ice. There's no cold water."
Through it all, Governor Rick Scott, the man in charge of the agency with oversight of nursing homes, says his team hasn't heard anything about unsafe conditions.
"We're talking to all of our nursing homes, our ALFs, because they're trying to make sure they have the power to take care of their citizens."
However, under Florida law, nursing homes are required to have emergency plans, plans approved by the state.
Now, consumer advocates are questioning if those plans are adequate and if the state is doing an adequate job of making sure they're being implemented.
"It is one of the most avoidable tragedies in the overall tragedy."
Today Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a republican candidate for governor, is calling for a top-to-bottom review of what went wrong in south Florida.
As for years of deregulation of the nursing home industry, much of it taking place under Governor Scott.
"I think it's too early to speculate on policy shifts to avoid that in the future, but I know that that's going to happen and it should happen."
Tampa Representative Sean Shaw is ready to make it happen, to pass legislation to make it easier for patients and their families to sue nursing homes for negligence and to step up enforcement.
"The state, the regulators, do they know what's going on, is the mandatory reporting that's required going on, what's the punishment? If you don't report it, is it severe enough? Certainly, a lot of us in the House, and the Senate, I imagine, are thinking about filing some bills to make sure there's some teeth in the regulations."
As for Governor Scott, back in 2011 he came under fire for forcing out Florida's longtime nursing home ombudsman, Brian Lee.
Lee was widely viewed as being tough on the industry and wound up testifying against a bill, ultimately passed, making it more difficult for patients and their families to sue.

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