DADE CITY, FL (WFLA) – The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has just launched a new investigation of the beleaguered Edwinola Retirement home in response to an 8 on Your Side report about fire code failures in that assisted living facility in Dade City.
State investigators went into action after an Eight on Your Side investigation revealed that Dade City Fire Inspector Doug True couldn’t verify a single working smoke detector at the eight story, 205 bed ALF–the city’s tallest structure–even after two inspections.
Tampa Baptist Manor is an independent living tower for seniors that is similar in size to the Edwinola. The administrator at Baptist Manor says his facility just invested $100,000 in a new fire alarm system and can’t imagine not having any working smoke detectors. “It would be insane to have a building that was that unsafe,” said Baptist Manor Administrator Bob Hazlett. “That’s property management 101.”
Dade City records show that True performed an annual inspection of the Edwinola in January and noted faulty smoke detectors in a number of vacant rooms along with 17 other fire code deficiencies. In a follow up inspection a month later,True reported the smoke detectors still weren’t working.
True told Eight on Your Side he didn’t check any smoke detectors when he returned for a third visit in March because previously vacant rooms were occupied and True wanted to respect the privacy of the elderly or disabled residents who live at the Edwinola.
True set another inspection date for January 2016 and insists he trusted “in good faith” that Edwinola managers would repair or replace the faulty smoke alarms boldly noted in his reports. True told us Edwinola managers promised to resolve the problem and he “took it as gospel” that they would do so.
Monday, Edwinola’s owner George Wagner III emailed a statement to Eight on Your Side insisting that “the safety of its residents a top priority especially when it comes to potential fire hazards.” Wagner added, “It’s also important to mention that we have a fire suppression system throughout our facility designed to keep residents safe.”
A public relations spokesman hired by Edwinola, Todd Templin, insists all of the smoke alarms in the 205 bed facility have been checked by the facility’s staff and are in good working order. Templin would not supply Eight on Your Side with any record of repairs. “The facility doesn’t have any specific documentation,” Templin wrote in an email Tuesday. “There is no agency that requires it.”
Templin would not give permission for us to go inside to verify whether the smoke alarms are operable. ”The fire department is welcome to come in any time to check for themselves,” Templin wrote. That’s not likely to happen any time soon because True, Dade City’s only fire inspector, has been hospitalized with an illness since last week.
Coincidentally AHCA was supposed to hold three days of hearings this week in an effort to revoke Edwinola’s license to operate as an assisted living facility. Those hearings are on hold for ‘settlement” talks.
The Edwinola is also under a state-ordered moratorium that bans it from accepting new patients. Those actions were triggered by the beating death of one Alzheimer patient by another Alzheimer patient in April, the suicide of a third Alzheimer patient and numerous other patient care violations.
As recently as August AHCA cited Edwinola for failing to dispense prescription medication to elderly residents for as long as two weeks at a time.
There is no indication yet whether AHCA has found working or nonworking smoke alarms inside the Edwinola, but an agency spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman tells Eight on Your Side the results of its current investigation will become a public record.
“The inspection report will be posted to our website when it becomes available,” Coleman wrote in an email Wednesday. “We will continue to monitor this facility. The Agency [AHCA] must rely on the expertise of the local authority having jurisdiction and we’re coordinating to ensure compliance and resident safety.”