Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Groups Urge Probe Into Scott's Role in Nursing Home Deaths

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Advocates plan to deliver petitions from more than 12,000 concerned citizens calling on the Legislature to investigate Gov. Rick Scott.

After Hurricane Irma knocked out power at a Hollywood nursing home in September, more than a dozen residents died when temperatures soared and residents were left in the suffocating heat. Several advocacy groups have argued the deaths were avoidable and are demanding answers from the governor, who they say ignored and deleted all calls for help left on his voicemail.

Brandy Doyle, campaign manager with CREDO Action, said they are heartbroken and outraged.

"Because this isn't a story just about one nursing home, it's not a story just about the lack of generators, though that's an important issue," Doyle said. "It's also a story about Rick Scott's long-term mismanagement and lax regulation of this industry."

Scott's office said it acted lawfully by deleting the voicemails because the records were transitory and of no future value. State Attorney Jack Campbell of the Second Judicial Court sided with Scott's claims and declined to open an investigation.

But Doyle said she hopes the Legislature will look at Scott's history of weakening the oversight and regulation of Florida's nursing homes, which she said have left many substandard facilities open for business.

"We know that Rick Scott has weakened the agency responsible for advocating for nursing home residents when he fired Brian Lee in 2011, who was the ombudsman for elder care in the state," Doyle said.

It's not clear how receptive the GOP-controlled legislature will be to opening a probe of Scott, but in the wake of the deaths, several lawmakers have signed on to legislation that would require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have working generators. (SB 284: Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facilities)

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