Relatives of Florida nursing home residents protest conditions

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Relatives of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills protested the conditions there Thursday, reports CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti.

Eight residents of the nursing home died this week, after Hurricane Irma knocked out power and air conditioning. 

Vendetta Craig's mother, 87-year-old Edna Jefferson, was one of the 158 patients rescued after spending three days in the sweltering heat.

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Vendetta Craig, left

CBS News

"What would you say to the owner of this facility?" Vigliotti asked.

"We coming for you, we coming for you. This is unacceptable. You mess with my mom, I'm not taking it," Craig said.

Now, police have launched a criminal investigation.

One inspection last year found 29 violations, including patients being given the wrong medications, overflowing trash, and insects in the kitchen. Residents complained they were hungry and were calling out for food.

The facility was ranked "much below average" by the state agency for healthcare administration, and its owner Jack Michel was fined $15 million in a 2006 healthcare fraud complaint. Yet, the center was allowed to stay open. 

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Mayor Josh Levy

CBS News

"How can a facility like this still be open?" Vigliotti asked Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy.

"Look, that's another question for the state agencies that regulate these nursing homes. At what point do you pull the license? At what point is it enough?" Levy said.

When the home lost power, police believe the backup generators were still not big enough to cool the space.

Records show several 911 calls came from the center starting at 3:30 a.m. But it was nurse Judy From, at a hospital just across the street, who walked over with colleagues to find out for herself what was happening.

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Judy From

CBS News

"It was a situation where we knew we had to get those patients evacuated," From said.

Craig also wonders why nursing home staff simply did not take patients to the air conditioned hospital steps away. 

"I hope the truth comes out … it's senseless," she said.

CBS News called the nursing home multiple times for comment and had not heard back as of Thursday evening. We also visited the owner's home; It was still boarded up for the hurricane. 

As of Thursday evening, 39 people remained hospitalized.