Four Louisiana nursing home residents died and 14 were hospitalized after being evacuated to a warehouse during Hurricane Ida where conditions were later determined to be unhealthy and unsafe, state officials said.
A total of 843 residents of seven nursing homes — all operated by one owner — were moved to the Waterbury Companies warehouse in the city of Independence before Ida made landfall, said Louisiana Department of Health spokesman Aly Neel.
Police said the warehouse was set up to receive 300 to 350 people.
Neel said the health department received reports of people lying on mattresses on the floor, not being fed or changed, and not being kept socially distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which is currently plaguing the state.
When the hurricane hit, conditions deteriorated rapidly, Neel said.
“We know water got into the building,” she said, adding that there were also problems with electricity generators.
Health officials said Thursday they had launched an investigation into the facility.
Fourteen nursing home residents had to be hospitalized after staying in a poorly conditioned warehouse during Hurricane Ida
Senior residents lying on air mattresses on the floor in Waterbury warehouse, while other reports stated no social distancing measures had been taken
Conditions at the warehouse that housed more than 800 seniors during Hurricane Ida were unhealthy and unsafe
When a large team of state health inspectors showed up on Tuesday to examine the warehouse, the owner of the nursing homes demanded that they leave immediately, Neel said.
Renetta Derosia and her sister Susan Duet came to the warehouse on Thursday to see how their mother, Loretta Duet, is in a wheelchair. Their voices were filled with emotion, they wondered how their mother was being treated.
“We’re just now hearing how bad it was here,” Derosia said. “We thought they had been taken better care of. If I had known, I would have taken her with me.’
The sisters thought their mother, who had lived in a nursing home in Lafourche Parish, was being taken to another home with good nursing beds when she was evacuated before the hurricane, Derosia said.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he is “sad at the situation.”
“We are going to conduct a full investigation into whether these facilities, the owner of the facilities, failed to keep residents safe and whether he deliberately hindered attempts to check in with them and determine what the conditions were at the shelter, Edwards said. .
Paramedics stand by at a mass shelter next to an elderly person crammed into Waterbury warehouse during Hurricane Ida
Wheelchairs lying next to Waterbury warehouse, where seniors were held in appalling and disgraceful sanitary conditions during Hurricane Ida
“And if warranted, we will take aggressive legal action against the responsible parties.”
Neel identified the owner of the nursing homes as Bob Dean.
The Medicare.gov website rates six of its seven nursing facilities with one star out of five, the lowest possible rating.
They are all located in Louisiana named: River Palms Nursing, Rehab South Lafourche Nursing, Rehab Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, West Jefferson Health Care Center, Maison Deville Nursing Home, and Maison DeVille Nursing Home.
Details of the deaths of the four elderly residents are unknown as state health inspectors were dismissed from investigating conditions at the warehouse facility
The rest of the nursing home gets two stars, still below average. Five of the nursing homes received a specific star in the classification system for ‘quality of resident care’.
Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards told WVUE-TV that the warehouse was set up to receive 300 to 350 people, but the number quickly rose to more than 800.
The police chief confirmed that some residents were lying on air mattresses on the floor, that the bins were too small and that there were some problems with the toilets.
Health officials identified the owner of the nursing homes as Bob Dean
One of Dean’s six nursing units, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center has barely more than one star out of five, the lowest possible rating, on Google and Medicare.gov
He said generators in the warehouse also stopped working a few times, and in general “conditions became unacceptable.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted my mother or grandmother to be in such circumstances,” he said.
State health inspectors returned to the warehouse on Wednesday and began relocating the residents.
By the end of Thursday, they had all been evacuated and taken to hospitals, nursing homes and special needs shelters, said Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s Chief Medical Officer.
‘It was a huge task to get so many people out and to safety in such a short time,’ says Kanter.
He said law enforcement officers were already on the scene investigating.
Officials used ambulances and buses to transfer the residents, Neel said.
Early Thursday evening, 10 ambulances were seen leaving the warehouse, located next to a water tower and about 50 meters from a train station.
A handful of wheelchairs stood at the entrance to the warehouse.
Police Chief Edwards was hesitant to blame anyone, saying it seemed like “everyone was trying their best under the circumstances.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said “everyone was doing their best under the circumstances” and declined to blame the owner of the four residents’ homes for housing seniors in poor conditions.
“I have no idea what the situation or circumstances were when they evacuated all those people,” he said.
“They may have been prepared for two nursing homes and had six more at risk. Let’s assume they had to evacuate more than they planned and they had to decide whether to move them to the facility they had or not at all.”
But Sabrina Cox, who came to find out what had happened to her Aunt Bonnie Carenti, said someone should have called her family to let them know Carenti was at the warehouse.
She said her father lives five minutes away, and if the family had known, they could have done something to help.
“To see this on the news and not even get a call in four days?” said Kox. “This is unacceptable. The elderly should not be treated this way. Nobody should be treated like that.’