The Louisiana Department of Health shut down seven for-profit nursing homes and moved to revoke their licenses Sept. 7, after 850 senior citizens there were evacuated to a warehouse in Independence Aug. 27 and left in deplorable and degrading conditions during Hurricane Ida. Residents’ relatives weren’t notified where they were. Seven people died and 14 were hospitalized.
Owner and Baton Rouge real estate magnate Bob Dean Jr., shocked reporters when he told them, “We did really good with taking care of people” and dismissed the death of four of the residents, saying they were “hospice patients, which you know — those are people that are on their way out.”
Government negligence and disregard for working people was just as responsible as Dean. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser admitted that the inhumane conditions evacuated residents faced, and in other nursing homes, were a repeat of the neglect and abuse that happened during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Dean nursing home residents were forced to sleep on mattresses laid side by side on the warehouse floor, in their wheelchairs or directly on the concrete floor. The generator failed, leaving the facility without air conditioning amid extreme heat and humidity. The stench of urine and feces were so strong that some people vomited.
Starting Aug. 27 city officials say they received 911 calls over four days from 63 people, reporting medical emergencies and inhuman conditions. One was from a 66-year-old woman who said she thought she had been kidnapped. When EMTs responded, they were turned away and officials did nothing further.
Workers at the warehouse reported the horrendous conditions to the Louisiana Department of Health. Health agency workers finally got around to visiting the warehouse Aug. 31, but Dean wouldn’t let them inside. It wasn’t until the next day that officials returned with state police, gained entry and began relocating people! The warehouse wasn’t completely vacated until Sept. 2.
Hundreds of other elderly tenants at so-called independent living facilities, private and “nonprofit” alike, also faced loss of electricity in New Orleans after the hurricane. Many were stuck on higher floors and unable to leave their apartments. As a condition of admission residents at some of the facilities had to prove they had set up their own personal evacuation plan in case of emergency. Management took no responsibility.
Neither the home owners nor the government did anything to get these residents to shelters. At least five were found dead over the Sept. 4-5 weekend. The owners of the facilities and local government officials blame each other for the deaths.