Nursing homes not ready for next storms, officials say

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Despite the wealth of experience gained from last year's hurricane season, state and federal officials have found that less than half of the nursing homes in hurricane prone areas of Louisiana are unprepared for potential storms. Most are now in a 10-day improvement period, after which they must be able to tell health officials details for new or better evacuation or sheltering plans.

Follow-up documentation from the state department of health showed only eight of 36 nursing facilities in the New Orleans area were considered fully prepared to handle another hurricane.

"They're certainly not near the level I'd like to see," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health department's medical director. "I was disappointed to see that some people haven't done any planning."

Most nursing homes in and around Louisiana's Gulf coast area are still not fully prepared to evacuate their residents or shelter in place during an emergency, according to the new report. It is based on a survey conducted in June — the month the current hurricane season started — by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state health authorities. Only 21 of 72 nursing homes in the most hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state had adequate evacuation plans. Only 29 nursing homes are prepared to ride out a storm without evacuating, while the rest are expected to need at least some assistance from state or federal authorities.

Nursing homes have been notified by state health officials with results of the survey and have been provided with suggestions to help improve preparedness. Nursing homes that that fail to upgrade their plans could face financial sanctions and other penalties, according to state officials.
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