Nursing home evacuation debate brews in Louisiana

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Who should be in charge of evacuating nursing homes during a disaster in Louisiana: The state or the facilities themselves?

That is a debate that is still simmering in the state that lost 70 nursing home residents to Hurricane Katrina seven months ago. While the nursing home industry wants the state to take responsibility, including the financial burden, for the evacuations, Gov. Kathleen Blanco wants states to follow through on their own emergency procedures.

Sen. Joe McPherson (D), chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, is proposing that the state pay for evacuation transportation and shelter if a major hurricane hits. Also, if the state fails to notify nursing homes in advance, facilities would not be held criminally liable for any patient harm if they stay put or evacuate on their own. McPherson is the owner of a nursing home in Lafayette.