Nursing home staff were physically restrained as rogue volunteers 'forcibly evacuated' residents in Harvey aftermath, provider says
A Texas nursing home at the center of a volunteer-run evacuation that was broadcasted live during news coverage of Hurricane Harvey is speaking out to clear up media “misinformation” about the steps it took to protect residents after the facility flooded.
Lake Arthur Place in Port Arthur, TX, was featured in a live news report on Houston's KFDM on Aug. 30 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The footage shows the facility's water-filled halls as volunteers tell the reporter that officials waiting on the National Guard's help should “consider us the National Guard; we're here with boats and we need to get these patients out of here.” Staff members also told the reporter the facility's food supply was dwindling.
The 15-minute video goes on to show the reporter and volunteers taking a resident in a wheelchair out of the facility and lifting her into a boat waiting outside.
The volunteer evacuation happened “forcibly” even as staff were working with authorities to organize a “timely, safe and organized evacuation,” said Andrew Kerr, president of Lake Arthur's operator Senior Care Centers, in a statement published by KFDM on Thursday.
Staff and residents were forced to shelter in place after worsening conditions prevented a planned evacuation, Kerr said. Residents were reportedly taken to higher ground in the facility at night and provided with medications, food and water until “unknown volunteers forcibly removed” them.
“Our team was not informed of the volunteers' authority or proper training to do so, and our caregivers, who were trying to protect our residents in the chaos of the situation, were physically restrained during the evacuation,” Kerr wrote.
Kerr said staff tried to accompany residents, but many became separated during the evacuation process. Lake Arthur staff said they received no information from the volunteers about where the residents were taken.
In the days since the the evacuation, Lake Arthur staff has worked to locate and confirm residents' safety. They also helped families move loved ones to a new facility, the statement said.
“We applaud the efforts of our team members who went above and beyond to take care of our patients and residents,” Kerr wrote. “And while we appreciate the rescue efforts of well-intended volunteers, those efforts must be coordinated with the authorities to help ensure the safety of those being evacuated.”
Kerr said the facility stands behind the care team's “heroic efforts” during the Harvey aftermath.