Smoke alarms pass inspection, but troubles persist for Pasco retirement home

Edwinola Retirement Community

DADE CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – A team of inspectors comprised of the Dade City fire marshal, Dade City building official and an investigator with the Agency for Health Care Administration spent nearly four hours Tuesday checking every smoke alarm inside apartments at the 205-bed Edwinola Retirement Community.

That inspection comes two weeks after 8 On Your Side first revealed that City Fire Marshal Doug True failed to find even one working smoke detector in the facility, which is home to elderly and disabled residents, earlier this year. True told 8 On Your Side Tuesday that he took the word of a staff member at the Edwinola that the smoke detectors would be repaired or replaced and never returned to confirm that action.

Our Sept. 22nd 8 On Your Side report triggered a state investigation by AHCA, and according to some residents, a flurry of activity as Edwinola maintenance workers rushed to replace smoke detectors in a number of rooms at the troubled facility. After Tuesday’s re-inspection prompted by our report, Dade City building official Mike Barthle told 8 On Your Side every smoke detector inside the Edwinola passed inspection. Eight months had passed since the fire marshal reported a 100 percent failure rate during his first two inspections.

One of the Edwinola’s residents invited News Channel 8 inside Tuesday to check the smoke detector in her seventh floor room. The device appeared to be new and in working order. That resident and a friend, who said his father lived in another apartment on the fourth floor, both said maintenance workers replaced the smoke detection devices after 8 On Your Side reported that 100 percent – 10 out of 10 – of the smoke detectors tested by the Dade City fire marshal in January and February failed to operate.

Edwinola is one of more than 3,000 licensed assisted living facilities in Florida. It is the only one currently under a moratorium, which bans the facility from accepting new patients. That moratorium follows the beating death of an Alzheimer’s patient by another unsupervised Alzheimer’s patient in April and the suicide of a third unsupervised Alzheimer’s patient that same month. Several patients with Alzheimer’s also wandered away from the Edwinola’s “lockdown” units and ended up on nearby highways due to inadequate supervision.

In recent months the facility has also been bedeviled by a bed bug infestation and conclusions by state inspectors that Edwinola’s staff members mishandled medications and possibly deprived residents of prescribed medications for weeks at a time. AHCA initiated action to revoke the facility’s license but last month suddenly put that process on hold to facilitate “settlement talks.”

Tuesday afternoon the AHCA investigator and Dade City inspectors slipped out of a side door headed to their cars and quickly drove away without comment while 8 On Your Side waited near the front entrance for news of their findings.

AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman said she cannot comment on the outcome of Tuesday’s smoke alarm inspection or how that will impact the state’s pending complaint. The matter will become public, Coleman said, when it is published on the agency’s website.

A letter from Fire Inspector Doug True about Tuesday’s inspection is available here.

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