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Florida police have announced charges against employees of a nursing home where 12 people died after Hurricane Irma. The employees - an administrator and three nurses - were on duty at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills when elderly patients began dying from heat exposure. NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Family members of some of those who died at the nursing home were at a news conference held today by Hollywood police. Police Chief Chris O'Brien thanked them for their patience in waiting for the results of a nearly two-year investigation.
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CHRIS O'BRIEN: The families sitting here today should not have lost their loved ones in this way. They placed their faith and trust in the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, its medical and administrative staff, and that trust was betrayed.
ALLEN: When Hurricane Irma hit in September of 2017, the nursing home in Hollywood didn't lose power, but it did lose its air conditioning. The storm knocked out the facility's AC units. Over the next three days, staff placed fans and portable coolers throughout the nursing home, but the temperatures inside kept rising.
On Wednesday, three days after the storm, the first patient died, and 911 was called. Within a few hours, seven more died. Other deaths after the evacuation were also attributed to heat exposure. Ultimately, the medical examiner listed 12 of 14 deaths at the nursing home as homicides.
O'Brien took issue with claims that the nursing home staff did all they could under trying post-storm conditions.
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O'BRIEN: I can tell you they didn't do enough. These are trained professionals that should've been aware of the environmental hazards that were taking place in that facility, and they chose to ignore them.
ALLEN: The four people charged include administrator Jorge Carballo, nursing supervisor Sergo Colin and two nurses, Tamika Miller and Althea Meggie. Carballo and Colin face 12 counts of aggravated manslaughter. Miller faces six manslaughter charges, and Meggie two.
DAVID FRANKEL: These people are bewildered about why they are being accused of recklessly being indifferent to human life when all they were doing was trying to help.
ALLEN: David Frankel is an attorney representing nursing supervisor Sergo Colin. Frankel says conditions were stable inside the nursing home in the first two days after the storm, as staff placed spot coolers and worked to keep patients hydrated. During that time, he says, staff repeatedly contacted the state's emergency operations center and the power company, Florida Power & Light, seeking help to get their air conditioners back online. Frankel says staff also took up then Florida Governor Rick Scott on his offer to nursing homes and hospitals to call him directly with any problems.
FRANKEL: They called his cellphone more than 10 times, and he never called back.
ALLEN: Police say more arrests are likely.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Hollywood, Fla.
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