Licenses revoked of nursing homes involved in Hurricane Ida evacuation where 7 died
BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE/Gray News) - The State of Louisiana announced they have revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes involved in an evacuation that crammed elderly and vulnerable residents into a warehouse to ride out Hurricane Ida. Seven of those evacuated to the warehouse died, at least four of them were related to the storm.
WVUE reports the nursing homes involved in the evacuation are all owned by New Orleans businessman Bob Dean, who also owned the warehouse that was turned into a shelter. The warehouse was expected to hold around 300 people, authorities in Tangipahoa Parish said, but the total ended up being more than 800 people riding out the storm in the warehouse. State inspectors were turned away when they tried to inspect the facility in the days following Hurricane Ida’s landfall.
The state made the decision to relocate more than 800 people to other facilities in Central and Northern Louisiana.
“All of these nursing facilities clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips. “When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted; an individual representing himself as the nursing home owner failed to communicate the situation; and then upon hearing reports from others that conditions at the facility had deteriorated our LDH surveyor was expelled from the property and LDH employees were subject to intimidation. Ultimately, lives were lost — these were grandparents, neighbors and friends, and we know families are hurting. We as a Department are taking formal regulatory action.”
LDH says during two in-person site visits by Health Standards and an environmental health assessment by an OPH Sanitarian prior to landfall it did appear that from a facility standpoint the minimum necessary components to provide a safe sheltering environment for a very short period of time were met. There were plans for staffing, food service and laundry, potable water, portable toilets, and a working generator appropriately sized for the facility.
Conditions at the facility, most importantly including care for residents, deteriorated following the storm, officials said. An individual representing himself as the owner of these nursing homes reportedly failed to communicate the dire situation to the state and ask for help. When LDH went on-site on August 31 upon receiving concerning reports from third parties, this operator expelled LDH from the property and prevented the completion of our site visit, authorities said in a statement Tuesday. In addition, over the course of the event, officials say LDH team members were subject to intimidation.
“This notice is to inform you that the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is terminating your provider agreement with the Louisiana Title XIX Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid). Pursuant to La. R.S. 46:437.11(D)(2), the Secretary may voluntarily terminate a provider agreement immediately if a health care provider is the subject of a sanction or of a criminal, civil, or departmental proceeding,” reads the notice to nursing facilities of the termination of their Medicaid agreements, effective immediately.
“An emergency preparedness plan is more than just a form of paper compliance. The implementation must accomplish the goals it is designed to meet. Some of those goals include the delivery of essential care and services to residents, the procedures for ensuring that all residents have access to licensed nursing staff, and that services are provided, during all phases of the evacuation, including transporting of residents. […] it is clear that the facility failed in this regard,” reads the notice to nursing facilities of the revocation of their licenses.
“…the situation at the site was clearly and rapidly deteriorating. While this was going on, the facility’s owner, rather than reaching out for help in regards to the situation from state regulators, was orchestrating a campaign with the goal of preventing a proper assessment of what the situation was at the site via threats, harassment and intimidation. This type of conduct, while also possibly violating the right of the resident to receive adequate and appropriate health care and protective and support services, is clearly demonstrative of indifference to the welfare of the residents,” the notice continues.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced his office has opened an investigation into the evacuation and deaths at the facility. His office asked for anyone with information to report it by calling 888-799-6885.
Residents of those nursing homes that were evacuated to the Independence, La. warehouse tell stories of being crammed into tight spaces with residents stepping on each other. One resident even described watching people die around them.
Video from inside the shelter shows that, despite state-mandated precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, patients were not positioned a safe social distance apart and mask use was not being enforced inside the warehouse building.
The owner of the building and the nursing homes involved, Bob Dean, was unable to be reached Tuesday for comment. He previously said they did the best that they could and claimed he was the only nursing facility with an evacuation shelter of this type between Texas and Florida.
In a phone interview last week, Dean said, “I just do it because I have to save people.”
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