Florida governor faces backlash over nursing home voicemails left during hurricane

Florida governor faces backlash over nursing home voicemails left during hurricane
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is facing criticism after his office revealed that four voicemails sent from a nursing home where eleven residents died in the aftermath Hurricane Irma were deleted.

Scott's office responded saying the four voicemails, which were all received during a 36-hour period before the first resident died, were handed off to the appropriate agency and then deleted.

"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. Every call was returned. The information collected from the voicemails was released to the public this week, along with over 150 pages of other documents," said Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for the governor's office.

"This is in line with the state’s record retention policy and Florida law," she added. "None of this changes the fact that this facility chose not to call 911 or evacuate their patients to the hospital across the street to save lives."

Eleven people died at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a nursing home that lost power and air conditioning during Hurricane Irma. Authorities said the deaths were heat-related.

A vice president at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills told CBS that she requested "immediate assistance" for the residents at the nursing home.

Last week, Scott's office denied that the nursing home ever indicated its residents were in immediate danger, and stressed that the calls were referred to the appropriate authorities.

“Every call made to the governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned,” Scott’s spokesman said last week in a statement to the CBS affiliate.

Florida's Department of Health has laid blame for the deaths squarely on the nursing home.

“Let’s be clear — this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities,” said Mara Gambineri, a Department of Health spokeswoman. “It is 100 percent the responsibility of health care professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients.”