Hundreds of Louisiana nursing home residents have been evacuated for the second time in a week, after state officials discovered four individuals moved to a warehouse in advance of Hurricane Ida later died.
Health authorities vowed legal action would be taken against the involved facilities. All seven are owned by the same operator, who also owns the warehouse used to stow the refugee residents. His managers prevented officials from inspecting the building as concerns mounted this week, according to the state.
News of the deaths broke as state and local officials mounted a rescue that included evacuating close to 850 residents to safer conditions. At least 50 had been sent to North Oak Hospital and 12 admitted, according to State Health Officer Joe Kanter, M.D. He said some patients arrived covered in urine and feces, without medical histories or medications.
The Louisiana Department of Health first heard concerns Tuesday about the facility, a warehouse in Independence, just over an hour north of downtown New Orleans. Hurricane Ida came ashore not far away Friday as a Category 4 storm. It knocked out power to much of the region, and temperatures soared into the 90s this week.
The residents had been moved to the warehouse Friday, and state officials told local media they started receiving complaints over the next few days.
“Upon hearing reports of deteriorating conditions at the facility after Hurricane Ida made landfall, [health] inspectors promptly visited the site but were expelled from the property and prevented from conducting a full assessment on Tuesday,” the department said in yesterday’s statement.
Video that emerged last night from earlier in the week showed residents in hospital gowns lying on mattresses strewn across the concrete floor. Officials began evacuating residents from the warehouse by mid-morning Wednesday using public and private ambulances, with some being taken to a mega shelter in nearby Alexandria.
The Louisiana Department of Health said Thursday the deaths of three individuals, identified by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) as a 59-year-old woman, a 52-year-old man and a 77-year-old man, have been classified as “storm-related” by the coroner. How those deaths came to light, whether the individuals died in the warehouse or their specific causes of death were not made public.
“We don’t think they would’ve died had the storm not happened and they weren’t evacuated,” Kanter told Nola.com.
The residents were initially moved out of seven nursing homes:
- River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Orleans Parish
- South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Lafourche Parish
- Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Orleans Parish
- Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, Jefferson Parish
- West Jefferson Health Care Center, Jefferson Parish
- Maison DeVille Nursing Home, Terrebonne Parish
- Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish
All of the facilities are owned by Bob Dean, who owns nursing homes and real estate businesses across Louisiana, according to local media. Dean also owns the warehouse where the residents were put through a shell company, Kanter said.
Six of the seven nursing homes have one-star ratings on Medicare.gov, with West Jefferson Health Care Center in Jefferson Parish the lone exception at two stars. In total, the seven facilities are licensed for 1,030 beds.
A health department official said inspectors made five visits to the owner’s chosen evacuation site, and it was nursing home management who told them Tuesday that they could not remain on the property to investigate complaints.
As of Thursday morning, 721 residents of 843 patients had been removed from the facility.
“This is a serious and active investigation,” the health department said in its statement. “We will be taking action against these nursing facilities, and will be making appropriate referrals to law enforcement.”