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Nursing Home Residents Die in Mishandled Hurricane Ida Evacuation

The state of Louisiana has revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes after authorities discovered the horrible – and deadly – living conditions residents experienced when they were evacuated from Hurricane Ida. All of the nursing homes are owned by the same Baton Rouge businessman, Bob G. Dean, Jr. Approximately 850 residents were evacuated to warehouse without adequate bathroom or sleeping facilities, substandard food, and no social distancing. At least seven residents have died.

The hurricane wreaked havoc on the gulf coast of Louisiana on August 29, as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 150mph. The nursing homes, like many businesses and local residents, were forced to evacuate to a safer location until the storm subsided. However, in the case of these seven nursing homes under the same ownership, the conditions of the evacuation location were dangerously bad for a prolonged period of time, especially considering the frailty and medical needs of nursing home residents. Families of the residents reported that the warehouse was dirty and packed, and the accommodations, if they can be called that, included mattresses on the floor, buckets for bathroom facilities, and unappetizing food, which one resident described as “half an egg and two slices of stale bread.”

A resident captured the conditions of the evacuation warehouse, which can be seen here.

The poor planning resulted in discomfort and the loss of human dignity for most of the 800-plus residents, but it appears to have contributed to the death of perhaps seven. Although emergency situations, such as hurricane, often present an expectation of difficult living conditions for a period of time, Louisiana authorities are revoking the licenses of the nursing homes for failing to report the deteriorating conditions of the evacuation site and failing to ask for help when it was clear that they were unable to meet the needs of the residents.

“All of these nursing facilities clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, as reported by the New York Times. “When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted; an individual representing himself as the nursing home owner failed to communicate the situation; and then upon hearing reports from others that conditions at the facility had deteriorated our LDH surveyor was expelled from the property and LDH employees were subject to intimidation. Ultimately, lives were lost — these were grandparents, neighbors and friends, and we know families are hurting. We as a Department are taking formal regulatory action.”

The conditions in the warehouse started bad and got progressively worse, but the management of the nursing home not only failed to notify the proper state authorities, but they also allegedly attempted to intimidate state inspectors who arrived. Eventually all the surviving residents were relocated.

Even during a natural disaster, nursing homes are required to have evacuation plans, and as health department attorney Stephen Russo put it, there is no excuse for "unsafe" and "inhumane" conditions, according to the USA Today’s report.

Families watched their loved ones suffer, and some even mourned the deaths of family members, but nursing home owner Bob Dean, Jr. seemed to suggest that the death count was more or less within the expected range for his nursing homes, according to a report in the New York Times. In that article it was reported he told WAFB TV that “Normally with 850 people you’ll have a couple [of deaths] a day, so we did really good with taking care of people.”

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If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, trust your instincts and know the signs. To learn more about your legal rights and options, contact Brown & Barron’s Baltimore attorneys online or at (410) 698-1717 for a free consultation.

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