While countless Louisiana residents were able to protect themselves and their families at home during Hurricane Ida or evacuated to safer, higher ground, the state’s more vulnerable population, including aging seniors living in nursing homes, were forced to rely on others for protection from the storm. And, unfortunately, this led to tragedy.
More than 800 seniors were put in harm’s way after being evacuated from several nursing home facilities owned by Bob G. Dean, Jr. of Baton Rouge. Before it was all over, seven of those individuals died.
Louisiana Nursing Home Evacuations Spark 911 Calls
Seniors from seven different facilities were evacuated to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana, beginning on August 27 as Hurricane Ida approached. Within hours of the evacuation, local emergency officials began receiving calls asking for assistance.
According to information from 911 logs obtained by CNN, more than 60 calls were made concerning medical emergencies. Some of the calls were about unassisted seizures, people struggling with hunger and thirst, people lying on the floor unable to get up, and one person who had become so disoriented she thought she had been kidnapped.
There were also reports concerning people struggling to stay alive. On August 29, a call came in reporting a senior “gasping and having trouble breathing,’’ followed three hours later with a call saying that a person’s “….breathing had stopped.’’
Less than 24 hours later, on August 30, another call came in. “Possible death already reported several times,” reads that log.
Louisiana Nursing Homes Closed & Licenses Revoked
By the evening of September 2, Louisiana Health Department workers had moved all the seniors from the warehouse. According to an article by the Associated Press, Dean had thrown health inspectors, who had received reports of issues, off the property before the massive rescue. Still, despite not being given full access, emergency personnel had seen enough to warrant the evacuation.
Along with water entering the building and generators at least temporarily failing, they witnessed victims lying on mattresses on the floor, without food or clean clothes, and detecting strong odors of urine and feces throughout the warehouse, as well as garbage piled on the floor.
At the same time, authorities ordered the seven senior facilities to be closed so residents could not move back. On September 7, nine days after Hurricane Ida hit, the Louisiana Department of Health officially revoked the licenses, and Medicaid provider agreements were terminated.
The seven nursing homes include:
- River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Orleans Parish
- South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Lafourche Parish
- Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Orleans Parish
- Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, Jefferson Parish
- West Jefferson Health Care Center, Jefferson Parish
- Maison De’Ville Nursing Home, Terrebonne Parish
- Maison De’Ville Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish.
This was not the first time Dean had been under fire for the treatment of residents at his facilities.
According to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, the Hurricane Ida tragedy had “close parallels” to charges against Dean in 1998 during Hurricane George.
Back then, it was reported that he evacuated his residents to a warehouse in Baton Rouge. According to reports, Dean had transported individuals on a bus without air conditioning before placing them in an unsuitable structure. At least one 86-year-old woman was alleged to have died because of the incident.
Although records show that Dean was fined by the state $1,500 for those actions, on an appeal, the state administrative judge reduced it to $1,000, finding that his company was not responsible for the patient’s death, but saying the company should have filed a plan.
Dean was also featured in a 2005 investigation of Louisiana nursing homes. It was reported that between 1999 and 2005, five patients in Dean’s facilities had died because of “subpar care” and included horrific stories of neglect.
Help Available for Neglected Hurricane Ida Nursing Home Residents
Unfortunately, the seven deaths in Independence were not the only fatalities involving seniors during Hurricane Ida. While performing post-storm wellness checks in New Orleans, workers for the city’s health department evacuated several senior apartment complexes deemed unfit for occupancy, and five people were found dead.
How can families who lost a loved one or had someone close to them suffer in a nursing home during Hurricane Ida move forward? While government leaders and law enforcement will take action against nursing home abuse, it is important for those affected by the actions of a nursing home to have someone on their side. The people responsible for the Louisiana seniors who were evacuated to unsafe shelters or left living in unfit conditions after Hurricane Ida need to be held accountable for their actions.
If you or someone you know has suffered because of the errors or neglect of a nursing home during or after Hurricane Ida, Herman Herman & Katz can help. Our New Orleans team of attorneys has extensive experience handling negligence cases following natural disasters. We can assist you through the process and make sure your family member is properly taken care of following a Hurricane Ida negligent nursing home experience. Call us at 844-943-7626 or contact us online with any questions or a free case evaluation.
Mikalia Kott is a dedicated advocate for her clients with extensive experience in successfully litigating large-scale cases.