Licenses Stripped From 7 Nursing Homes That Failed to Have Hurricane Ida Evacuation Plan

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) said Tuesday that they have revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes that failed to execute safe evacuation plans for residents ahead of Hurricane Ida.

The health department said each of the nursing homes "clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services" when they evacuated hundreds of individuals into a warehouse facility in Tangipahoa Parish, located in southeastern Louisiana.

During that evacuation, over 800 elderly and vulnerable residents were crammed into the warehouse under insufficient conditions to ride out the storm, according to WVUE-TV.

Seven residents who evacuated to the warehouse died as a result, with at least four cases directly related to the storm, the news outlet reported. Residents were reportedly packed into dangerously tight spaces and social distancing protocols were not implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted; an individual representing himself as the nursing homeowner 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," the health department said in a statement on Tuesday.

"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 department added.

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 Paris; West Jefferson Health Care Center, Jefferson Parish; Maison De Ville Nursing Home, Terrebonne Parish; Maison Deville Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish.

Each of the nursing homes, along with the warehouse facility in Tangipahoa Parish, are owned by New Orleans businessman Bob Dean, WVUE reported. According to the news outlet, Dean previously defended the evacuations by stating the facilities did the best they could under the circumstances.

The LDH said that during two in-person visits to the facility, it appeared that the minimum necessities to provide safe sheltering for residents were met. However, it became clear that conditions for the residents began to rapidly deteriorate after Ida made landfall in the state.

"The situation at the site was clearly and rapidly deteriorating. While this was going on, the facility's owner, rather than reaching out for help in regards to the situation from state regulators, was orchestrating a campaign with the goal of preventing a proper assessment of what the situation was at the site via threats, harassment and intimidation," the department said Tuesday.

After assessing the unsuitable conditions, the LDH said the residents were safely evacuated from the facility on September 1 and 2. On Tuesday, State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter ordered that the seven facilities involved are now prohibited from admitting or repatriating patients.

Along with having their licenses stripped, the facilities have also had their Medicaid provider agreements terminated.

"An emergency preparedness plan is more than just a form of paper compliance. The implementation must accomplish the goals it is designed to meet," read the department's notice to nursing facilities of the revocation of their licenses.

"Some of those goals include the delivery of essential care and services to residents, the procedures for ensuring that all residents have access to licensed nursing staff, and that services are provided, during all phases of the evacuation, including transporting of residents. [I]t is clear that the facility failed in this regard."

Newsweek contacted the LDH for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Hurricane Ida
Seven nursing homes had their licenses revoked after failing to implement a safe evacuation plan during Hurricane Ida. Here, homes stand partially flooded in LaPlace, Louisiana on August 30 in the aftermath of the storm. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images