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Florida hired owner of Hollywood nursing home where patients died to plan for disasters

By Dan Christensen, 

The now closed Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills

Twice in the last five years, Florida hired to review area disaster planning a hospital run by the owner of the Hollywood nursing home where many elderly patients died after Hurricane Irma cut power to air-conditioning.

The Florida Department of Health awarded those no-bid contracts for hurricane and other disaster preparedness planning to South Miami’s Larkin Community Hospital in 2012 and 2014. The total contract price for both was about $79,000.

Larkin is 100 percent owned by its chairman and president, Dr. Jack Michel, according to Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) records. Michel is also listed as the 100 percent owner of the now-closed Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

“The purpose of the contract is to support hospital(s) in preparation for response to mass casualty incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive agents as well as natural or environmental disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, massive flooding, and pandemics,” says a summary of the 2012 contract on Florida’s online contract tracking system.

In 2014, the state also tasked Larkin with, among other things, developing “the ability to provide adequate medical evaluation and care during incidents that exceed the limits of the normal medical infrastructure.” Also, to “ensure the ability of the healthcare system to survive a hazard impact and maintain or rapidly recover operations that were compromised.”

While the contracts are between the state and Larkin, Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said her agency “had no role in selecting” Larkin and acted only as a conduit to pass through federal grant dollars.

Dr. Michel’s Larkin hospital was required to submit reports, improvement assessments and conduct preparedness training and exercises. The contractual services Larkin actually performed are not clear from the records, but the Health Department paid Larkin less than half the contract amount, or $31,235.

Larkin hospital said Dr. Michel was out of the office and unavailable on Friday. A request for comment was directed to Larkin spokeswoman Kristina Gaddy, who hung up after saying, “I’m sorry I can’t help you.”

Death toll now at 14

The lessons Larkin learned from its disaster preparedness review appear not to have been applied at Dr. Michel’s Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, 1200 North 35th Ave., Hollywood. AHCA shut the nursing home down after national publicity about the deaths of eight elderly residents who succumbed amid sweltering heat. The death toll has since grown to 14.

Dr. Jack Michel

AHCA’s Sept. 20 emergency suspension order accused the nursing home of failing to maintain safe conditions, to evacuate once conditions were no longer safe, and not contacting 911 during the medical emergency. AHCA also said the Rehabilitation Center doctored the dead residents’ records “under dubious circumstances.”

“Emergency planning and preparedness cannot prevent the gross negligence or criminal negligence of a licensed health care provider,” says the emergency suspension order.

Hollywood police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are conducting a criminal investigation.

Larkin, at 7031 SW 62nd Ave., South Miami, is a 147-bed, for-profit hospital with a special designation since 2012 as a “statutory teaching hospital.” The hospital acquired Hialeah’s 247-bed Palm Springs General Hospital last year for $40 million.

Here’s what Larkin said about its other holdings in a Feb. 1, 2016 press release announcing its purchase of Palm Springs General:

“This is the latest in a long string of acquisitions by the South Miami-based, physician-owned hospital, whose holdings now include the 147 bed teaching hospital in South Miami, a 50 bed inpatient behavioral health hospital and 152-bed skilled nursing facility in Hollywood, a 180-bed assisted living facility in South West Miami, 2 home health agencies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and 5 imaging centers throughout Miami-Dade County.

At the time, Dr. Michel was quoted as saying, “This acquisition represents a significant step in our transformation into an integrated delivery system by adding inpatient/outpatient capacity in North Miami-Dade County.”

The 152-bed skilled nursing facility is the now-shuttered Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

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