HOLLYWOOD — Florida Governor Rick Scott drew unwanted attention with the realization that four voicemail messages requesting “immediate assistance” from a nursing home where 11 elderly residents died as a result of Hurricane Irma were deleted, eliminating evidence important to the ongoing investigation.
Scott made his personal cell phone number available to certain hospital and nursing home officials for assistance as needed in the week leading up to the major storm. Natasha Anderson of The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood took advantage of that number, but to no avail.
Hurricane Irma struck South Florida on September 10th, beginning a horrifying timeline for the nursing home:
SEPT. 10, 3:00: The Rehabilitation Center loses power.
SEPT. 10, 3:49: Administrators contact Florida Power and Light (FPL), who decline to provide immediate, emergency service.
SEPT. 11, evening: Several follow-up calls to FPL fail to gain traction. A phone call to Gov. Scott’s cell phone goes directly to voicemail.
SEPT. 12: Three further calls are placed to Scott’s cell phone.
The first patients began dying early on September 13th; body temperatures of the deceased were in some cases as high as 109 degrees. The facility was evacuated shortly thereafter.
Scott’s office claims the calls to the governor’s phone were returned by the Department of Health, and that the nursing home was advised to call 911 if any residents needed assistance. (Of course, if they were merely expected to call 911, one wonders why Scott would have given out his personal cell phone number in the first place.)
After enduring the brutal period of time without air conditioning, a total of 11 patients died, with the latest death happening on Thursday.
As to why the voicemails in question weren’t retained, Lauren Schenone—a governor’s office spokeswoman—said, “The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the Governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling.”