Florida nursing home where deaths occurred was not on priority list: utility

(Reuters) - Florida Power & Light said on Wednesday it had provided power to part of a nursing home that housed six residents who died after the facility lost electricity due to Hurricane Irma, adding that it was not on a county priority list for emergency power restoration.

“Parts of the facility itself were energized by FPL, I can’t give you anything more specific than that at this point,” FPL spokesman Rob Gould told a news conference, referring to the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills.

Two elderly residents were found dead at the nursing home, and four later died at a hospital.

Police opened a criminal investigation at the nursing home in Broward County, which is north of Miami.

Some residents were evacuated on early Sunday morning and some woke up feeling sick at the center, which had been without air conditioning, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said.

Gould said FPL met with Broward County officials in March before the storm season to discuss what facilities would be prioritized for power restoration this year.

“They identified which facilities were to be critical top infrastructure facilities, this was not one of them,” he said about the Hollywood Hills center.

Broward County officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc, has said earlier this week that the company prioritizes restoring power to critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communications centers, water treatment plants, transportation and shelter.

Gould said the incident at Hollywood Hills emphasizes that all facilities need to have backup plans in case power is lost during storms.

Memorial Regional Hospital, a facility across from the nursing home, was identified as a top priority by the county and had power, Gould said.

Florida has more than 680 nursing homes that house about 73,000 residents, the Florida Health Care Association said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Scott Disavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon