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Broward Nursing Home Expands Lawsuit Against State

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A Broward County nursing home has expanded a lawsuit challenging moves by Gov. Rick Scott's administration that effectively shut down the facility after residents died following Hurricane Irma.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit last month in Leon County circuit court challenging Sept. 13 and Sept. 14 state orders that placed a moratorium on patient admissions and suspended the facility from the Medicaid program. It filed an amended complaint this week that challenged a Sept. 20 emergency order that suspended the facility's license.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration acted after eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Sept. 13, three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning. Four other residents who were evacuated died later.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed the lawsuit Sept. 19 and followed with the amended complaint Tuesday, contending that the state did not have adequate grounds to prevent the facility from operating. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the state.

“These actions by AHCA do not meet the essential requirements of law for entry of immediate emergency orders by a state agency because the administrative orders are completely devoid of factual allegations, and as stated, lack the required specificity and particularity, as to any improper conduct or wrongdoing on the part of Hollywood Hills,” the amended complaint said.

But in the emergency order suspending the license, the state agency said nursing-home officials failed to properly evacuate residents when conditions became unsafe during the three days without air conditioning.

“The respondent's (nursing home's) deficient conduct is widespread and places all future residents at immediate threat to their health, safety and welfare,” the order said. “The respondent has demonstrated that its physical plant and its management cannot provide an environment where residents can be provided care and services in a safe and sanitary manner.” Circuit Judge James Shelfer has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 27.

Meanwhile Thursday, Scott released a statement calling on the state Constitution Revision Commission to consider proposals that could help protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The commission will put proposed constitutional amendments on the November 2018 ballot.