Boil water order lifted for North Miami

North Miami has lifted its precautionary boil water order for the city.

All North Miami water utility customers were given the all clear Monday after the completion of water main repairs and water tests showing satisfactory results.

The boil water order was issued last week after Hurricane Irma disrupted power to city pumps.

Customers were experiencing low water pressure because of several water main breaks throughout the city.

City officials said the water is now safe to drink and customers don’t need to boil their water.

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Obamacare no longer on death’s door in Virginia

Obamacare is no longer set to fail in Virginia.

Anthem reversed its recent decision to pull out of the state Friday and will provide Obamacare policies in 68 counties and cities, the majority of which would not otherwise have coverage options next year. The move means that roughly 70,000 Virginians won’t be left out in the cold.

It also means that Obamacare will once again be available everywhere in 2018. At one point, about 92,000 people in more than 80 counties across the nation were at risk of having no insurers after several carriers, including Anthem, bailed on the health reform law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But other carriers, notably Centene and CareSource, stepped in to provide coverage.

Virginia’s marketplace was temporarily thrown into chaos earlier this month when Optima Health announced it was scaling back its participation. That would have left nearly one in five of the state’s enrollees at risk of having no Obamacare options in 2018.

Anthem, one of the largest carriers on the exchanges, has been reducing its presence nationwide. In many states, it is remaining only where it is the sole carrier left. The same is true in Virginia.

“Since learning that 63 counties and cities in Virginia would not have access to Individual health plans, Anthem has been engaged in further evaluation and discussion with regulators to ensure that no bare counties or cities exist in the state,” the company said in a statement.

Other holes, however, could still open this month. Insurers have until Sept. 27 to sign contracts obligating them to participate next year. Many remain jittery about remaining involved, particularly because President Trump has not guaranteed he will continue to pay a key set of Obamacare subsidies.

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After tragic deaths, memorial grows outside of nursing home in Hollywood

After Hurricane Irma, the aftermath of the storm continued to hurt the most vulnerable in South Florida. Officials said 39 nursing homes didn’t have power four days after the storm. 

In Broward County, there was a memorial growing in front of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, 1200 N 35 Ave., on Thursday night. 

The tragedy started after a fallen tree damaged a transformer used to power the air conditioner at the nursing home Sunday. The facility didn’t have emergency air conditioning. They alerted Broward County officials Tuesday, but didn’t report having any medical needs. 

The home’s staff found Albertina Vega, 99, dead about 2:55 a.m., Wednesday, but this didn’t prompt the nursing home administrators to evacuate the facility.

They also didn’t inform the Florida Department of Health that their residents in the 152-bed nursing home were at risk although several of them suffered respiratory or cardiac distress. 

The nursing home is in the same building as the Larkin Behavioral Health Services psychiatric hospital and is steps away from Memorial Regional Hospital. When three patients were in the emergency room, it set off a red flag. 

“We walked over to see if we could offer assistance,” said Judy Frum, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. 

But by the time the nurses at Memorial Regional Hospital jumped into action, it was too late. Seven more of the nursing home’s residents died. They were ages 70 to 92. 

  • Carolyn Eatherly, 78, was pronounced dead at hospital at 5 a.m.
  • Manuel Mario Mendieta, 96, died inside the nursing home. Fire Rescue pronounced him dead at 5:46 a.m.
  • Gail Nova, 70, was pronounced dead at hospital at 6:49 a.m.
  • Bobby Owens, 84, died in the nursing home. Fire Rescue pronounced him dead at 6:57 a.m.
  • Miguel Antonio Franco, 92, died in the nursing home. Fire Rescue pronounced him dead at 6:59 a.m.
  • Estella Hendricks, 71, was pronounced dead at the hospital at 7:53 a.m.
  • Betty Hibbard, 84, was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:09 p.m.

Detectives with the Hollywood Police Department were investigating.  The families of the eight dead want justice. 

Attorney Marcos Susen said the air conditioning problem at the facility wasn’t new. He filed a lawsuit in behalf of Lorraine Luongo, a former resident, accusing The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills of negligence and abuse last year.

“It’s very, very sad that it took eight deaths to some awareness to this problem, which existed for years,” Susen said. 

Sen. Bill Nelson was among the outraged about the higher than average deficiencies, below average ratings and inadequate emergency preparedness plans at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

He asked federal officials Thursday to “hold those responsible for their deaths … accountable and ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent a similiar tragedy from happening in the future.”

Local 10 News’ Andrea Torres contributed to this report. 

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Post Hurricane Irma-heat hurts Floridians without power

Florida seniors were ushered out of stifling assisted-living centers Thursday while caregivers fought a lack of air conditioning with Popsicles and cool compresses after eight people died at a nursing home in the post-hurricane heat.

Dozens of the state’s senior centers still lacked electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and several facilities were forced to evacuate. While detectives sought clues to the deaths, emergency workers went door to door to look for anyone else who was at risk.

Fifty-seven residents were moved from a suburban Fort Lauderdale assisted-living facility without power to two nearby homes where power had been restored. Owner Ralph Marrinson said all five of his Florida facilities lost electricity after Irma. Workers scrambled to keep patients cool with emergency stocks of ice and Popsicles.

“FPL has got to have a better plan for power,” he said, referring to the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light. “We’re supposed to be on a priority list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly it’s very scary.”

Stepped-up safety checks were conducted around the state after eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top leaders as they surveyed destruction from the punishing storm.

Older people can be more susceptible to heat because their bodies do not adjust to temperatures as well as those of younger people. They do not sweat as much and are more likely to have medical conditions that change how the body responds to heat. They are also more likely to take medication that affects body temperature.

Most people who die from high body temperature, known as hyperthermia, are over 50, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Statewide, 64 nursing homes were still waiting Thursday for full power, according to the Florida Health Care Association. The separate Florida Assisted Living Association said many of its South Florida members lacked electricity. The group was working on a precise count.

A day earlier near Orlando, firefighters helped relocate 122 people from two assisted-living centers that had been without power since the storm. And at the 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door to check on residents and bring ice, water and meals.

For older people living on their own, such as 94-year-old Mary Dellaratta, getting help can depend on the attentiveness of neighbors, family and local authorities. The widow evacuated her Naples condominium with the help of police the day before the hurricane. After the storm passed, a deputy took her back home and another brought her food. A deacon from her Roman Catholic church also stopped by.

But with no family in the area and neighbors who are gone or unwilling to help, the New York native feels cut off from the world.

“I have nobody,” she said.

The electricity is out in her condo, so there’s no television for news. She cannot raise the electric-powered hurricane shutters that cover her kitchen windows.

Near the point of despair, remembering to take her medicine or locating her cane are almost insurmountable challenges.

“I don’t know what to do. How am I going to last here?” she said, as a tear rolled down her cheek.

To the east, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation has been checking on elderly residents in their homes and felt a greater sense of urgency after the deaths. CEO Jacob Solomon said the group encouraged people to evacuate before the storm if they could, but now they’re focused on helping them in their homes.

“At this point, we’re better off taking care of them where they are. They didn’t leave then. They’re not going to leave now. What are you going to do? You go, you check on them, you make sure they have water and food and that’s it,” he said. “You’re not going to convince a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor to do something that she doesn’t want to do.”

Though the number of people with electricity has improved from earlier in the week, some 4.9 million people across the peninsula continued to wait for power. Utility officials warned it could take a week or more for all areas to be back up and running.

Including the nursing home deaths, at least 26 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

On Thursday, detectives were at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after receiving a search warrant to investigate the eight patients’ deaths, which police believed were heat-related.

The center said the hurricane knocked out a transformer that powered the air conditioning. Broward County said the home alerted officials about the situation on Tuesday, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help.

But by early Wednesday, the center had placed three calls to report patients in distress, prompting firefighters to search the facility. They found three people dead and evacuated 145 people to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said. By that afternoon, five more had died.

The facility’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, said in a statement that it was cooperating fully with authorities.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday night that he has directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate the center as a Medicaid provider. The program provides health care for low-income individuals and families.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Rosemary Cooper, a licensed practical nurse at the rehabilitation center, declined to discuss specifics about the case, citing the investigation.

“The people who were working there worked hard to make a good outcome for our patients,” she said. “We cared for them like family.”

But state records revealed a variety of problems at the center. The center showed deficiencies in maintaining fire and safety standards pertaining to exits and storage areas, as well as more serious problems with its generator maintenance and testing, according to February 2016 reports by Florida Agency for Health Care Administration inspectors.

Another 2016 report found problems with respecting patient dignity and maintaining housekeeping services.

The ex-husband of 71-year-old victim Gail Nova said her devastated family believes the facility should lose its license.

“Someone’s got to answer for this. Someone let the ball drop very, very far,” Kenneth Nova said by phone from his home in Winter Haven.

 

The Associated Press Terry Spence reported from Hollywood and Jay Reeves reported from Naples. Associated Press writers Tim Reynolds in Aventura; Brendan Farrington, Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy in Tallahassee; Adriana Gomez Licon in Homestead; Michael Melia in Hartford Connecticut and Jennifer Kay, Freida Frisaro, Curt Anderson and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.

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Utah nurse’s arrest violated policies, investigation shows

Two Utah police officers violated policies when they forcibly arrested a nurse who would not let them draw blood from an unconscious patient, an internal investigation found.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Wednesday the officers violated several city and department policies, including those pertaining to arrests, ethics and officer conduct.

The officers have 20 days to respond to the results of the internal investigation, after which Chief Mike Brown will determine what employment action should be taken. The police department said it had no comment on the report.

Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne’s tense encounter with charge nurse Alex Wubbels at the University of Utah Hospital burn unit drew national attention after body cam footage of the July 26 incident spread online.

Payne’s attorney, Gregory Skordas, acknowledged Payne “made mistakes,” but said “it’s clear from all accounts that there was fault at virtually every level.”

“It was just an unfortunate concurrence of a lot of mistakes and misunderstanding of the law and really sort of not necessarily appropriate behavior from some individuals, including Jeff, that led to this,” Skordas said.

During the incident, Wubbels refused to let officers draw a blood sample from the patient.

Hospital policy specifies that to obtain a blood sample, police need a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needs to be under arrest. The unconscious patient was not a suspect in the wreck that killed another driver.

In the widely-seen police body cam video, Payne expressed repeated frustration after the nurse told him he would not obtain a blood sample.

Wubbels gave the officers a printout of the hospital policy for drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.

After she refused, Payne quickly walked over to her. The video shows Wubbels screaming for him to stop as he forced her out of the door toward a police car.

“I’ve done nothing wrong! I’ve done nothing wrong! Why is this happening? This is crazy,” she said as she was led away.

Payne handcuffed the nurse and placed her in a police car, where she sat for about 20 minutes, according to CNN affiliate KSL. She was later released without charge.

Salt Lake City’s mayor, city council and police later apologized to Wubbels for the arrest.

The Salt Lake City Police Department placed Payne and another officer on administrative leave pending the results of the internal investigation.

Payne was also fired from a separate job as a part-time paramedic.

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