Less than a year after an embattled Louisiana nursing home owner became embroiled in a class action lawsuit over improper evacuation plans, a new report casts an even broader net exposing similar problems through the southeastern part of the state.
Health officials concluded the problems are putting hundreds of nursing home residents at risk because of inadequate or unsafe hurricane shelters.
The report from the Louisiana Department of Health concluded most of the dozen “unlicensed” shelters that nursing homes from hurricane-prone parishes planned to use as evacuation sites are unfit for that purpose, according to published reports.
For unknown reasons, the health department declined to release a list of the problematic evacuation shelters or the nursing homes that planned to use them. The agency told reporters that it cannot legally stop nursing homes from evacuating to these problematic locations until the middle of 2023.
After inspections in the spring, health officials did not recommend eight of the 12 evacuation sites for nursing homes in Louisiana’s 22 most hurricane-prone parishes. At the remaining four sites, meanwhile, health officials found no significant concerns, while recommending a series of upgrades.
The state’s recent controversies over inadequate or unsafe evacuation shelters took root last year when a group of nursing home patient advocates filed a class action suit against Bob Dean, the facilities’ owner.
As McKnight’s reported, nearly 1,000 workers at Dean’s network of seven nursing homes lost their jobs after the state’s Department of Health revoked his license following their evacuation to an industrial warehouse during Hurricane Ida. Hundreds of residents remained in the warehouse for five days, during which time the conditions deteriorated and several residents subsequently died.
Later, more than a dozen residents’ families filed lawsuits against Dean. According to court records, the plaintiffs claim that the conditions were unsanitary and that residents slept on mattresses on the floor until the warehouse flooded and the state intervened.
In June 2022, the Louisiana Attorney General’s office ordered Dean’s arrest on eight felony counts of cruelty to persons with infirmities, five felony counts of Medicaid fraud and two felony counts of obstruction of justice.
In addition to the lawsuits, the state of Louisiana has revoked licenses and terminated state Medicaid provider agreements for seven Dean properties. He is appealing the license revocations, and has consistently denied any wrongdoing. Efforts to reach Dean’s attorney, John McLindon, were unsuccessful Monday.