Harvey evacuation leads residents' families to take legal action against SNF, administrator

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a statement from Senior Care Centers.

Relatives of residents of a Texas nursing facility whose volunteer-led Hurricane Harvey evacuation made headlines are taking legal action against the provider.

The evacuation of residents of Lake Arthur Place in Port Arthur, TX, by volunteers was captured during a live news report by Houston's KFDM on Aug. 30. The report showed some volunteers and relatives criticizing the facility's willingness to let them remove residents.  

A statement was later released by Andrew Kerr, president of operator Senior Care Centers, saying the facility appreciated “the rescue efforts of well-intended volunteers” but not the way they “forcibly” removed residents without telling staff where they were going.

Family members of residents filed a temporary restraining order on Friday against the facility's administrator, parent company and its corporate office citing the “epic failure” of its evacuation plans. The order prevents Senior Care Centers, its management and Lake Arthur Place administrator Jeff Rosetta from making changes to the facility, its computer system, residents' medical records, communications regarding the evacuation plan, photographs of the scene, witness statements and Rosetta's cell phone.

In a statement to McKnight's Long-Term Care News Senior Care Centers noted that it does not comment on pending legal matters, but that "above all, our patients and residents remain our highest priority.”

Tonya Petix, one of the relatives who filed the order, told Houston's KHOU that she entered the facility on Aug. 30 to check on her mother, only to find the hallways filled with water and residents sitting in “inhumane” conditions. Petix said she asked staff about the evacuation plan, but was told to contact Senior Care Centers' corporate office. When she called, that office said the facility was fine and hung up on her, Petix said.

“We trusted them, the facility, with the dignity and care of our family members,” Petix said. “They failed us, and it was an epic failure on their part,”

In total, three family members called for the temporary restraining order, Petix's attorney told KHOU.