Afternoon temperatures in Maryland eased back into the mid-90s on Thursday, but not before a week of extreme weather claimed the cooling system at another Baltimore nursing home.
Seventy-four residents were moved out of the Liberty Heights Health and Rehabilitation Center in Northwest Baltimore late Wednesday and early Thursday morning after the air conditioning faltered.
It was the second time this week that patients were moved from a Baltimore nursing facility because of air conditioning problems.
Temperatures in Baltimore reached 98 degrees on Sunday, and topped 100 degrees for the next three days, breaking records twice.
Thursday's high at BWI-Marshall Airport was 94 degrees. That was well below the record of 100 degrees set for the date in 1993, but dew points in the low 70s made it feel more oppressively humid than it was earlier in the week.
Patients from the Liberty Heights nursing home, at 4017 Liberty Heights Ave., were scattered among seven other area nursing centers also belonging to Liberty Heights' owner, Cincinnati-based CommuniCare Health Services.
"They decided to move them at our urging, and did it voluntarily, swiftly and smoothly into the night," said David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Transfer of the last of 150 residents from the Ravenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on West Franklin Street, took place after midnight Thursday, assisted by officials from the DHMH and a number of area nursing facilities that agreed to take patients. Air conditioning there failed sometime over the weekend.
State health authorities met late Thursday to discuss the findings of their inspections at the facility this week. But no decision on possible sanctions are expected before the state officials can meet with Ravenwood staff next week, officials said.
The first word of air conditioning problems at Ravenwood came from a patient's call to 911 early Tuesday morning after conditions inside became intolerable. The nursing home's failure to alert state health officials to the situation sooner could result in fines.
Repairs at Ravenwood were expected to take a week or more.
The cooling problems at Liberty Heights Health and Rehabilitation began some time ago, according to Sandra Durham, the executive director there. But the company's long-standing plans to replace 14 through-the-wall units and central air conditioning units that serve the hallways ran afoul of this week's extreme weather.
"Because of the three-digit temperatures, it became a little bit unmanageable," she said. As temperatures in the facility increased, the staff tried moving patients around in the building. The forecast of more extreme heat also prompted the home to bring in 14 portable units to augment the existing equipment.
But "they didn't do the job. They were not only cooling; they were also putting out heat, and dumping it into the ceiling," Durham said.
So, around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Liberty Heights officials, in conjunction with the state Office of Health Care Quality, decided to activate evacuation plans and move everyone out until the cooling units are replaced.
By 5:14 a.m. on Thursday, Durham said, all 74 patients had been moved by bus or ambulance to seven "sister" facilities in the area owned by CommuniCare.
Paulson, the health department spokesman, said the moves went smoothly. "They had the bed space, and most [of the residents] were ambulatory. There were no health issues related to heat."
Durham said, "All family members were notified. It was very successful."
The building's air conditioners, which had been scheduled to arrive Thursday, should be up and running by Sunday, Durham said, and patients will be moved back.
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