This story has been updated.
Two state lawmakers visited the Jackson Plaza Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Miami Monday to lead a roundtable discussion about nursing homes needs in times of crisis.
Hollywood Sen. Gary Farmer and Sen. Anitere Flores, of South Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, said discussions between health care professionals and policymakers are needed to prevent more tragedies like the one at the Hollywood Hills Nursing Home, where 14 patients died after the center's cooling system failed during Hurricane Irma.
“Our committee is one of those that will be tasked with investigating the aftermath of what were some of the issues in the nursing home industry post-Irma, and how can we make sure that this doesn't happen again,” said Flores, who chairs the Florida Senate Health Appropriations Committee.
Farmer puts part of the blame for the nursing home deaths on the Florida Legislature.
“We’ve taken a lot away, a lot of the oversight, we’ve taken away the autonomy of the ombudsman, we’ve done away - reduced staffing ratios. We created some of the conditions that allowed Hollywood Hills to happen,” Farmer said.
He believes communication between the state and Broward County leaders could have been better.
“I don’t know that there was clarity of coordination between state and county officials as to who was looking in on these homes to make sure that other patients weren’t in grave danger,” Farmer emphasized.
The healthcare and nursing home industry union 1199SEIU organized and hosted the discussion. Caretakers at the Jackson Plaza facility told the senators that their main concern - outside of ensuring air-conditioning after a hurricane - is getting clear direction in the event that they need to evacuate patients.