BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana State Health Officer Joseph Kanter ordered the immediate closure of seven nursing homes in south Louisiana Saturday following the deaths of seven residents evacuated to a warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish ahead of Hurricane Ida.
The Louisiana Department of Health says five of those deaths have been classified as storm-related. State health officials are investigating the deaths following reports of squalid conditions at the warehouse facility in Independence, where 843 residents from seven nursing facilities operated by Bob Dean were sent on Friday, August 27, before Ida roared ashore in southeast Louisiana.
“The lack of regard for these vulnerable residents’ wellbeing is an affront to human dignity. We have lost trust in these nursing homes to provide adequate care for their residents. We are taking immediate action today to protect public health,” Kanter said in a statement released early Saturday evening.
Department spokesperson Aly Neel told the Associated Press that water had entered the building and generators failed at least temporarily, and the state received reports of people left on mattresses on the floor, without food or clean clothes, and with strong odors of feces in the building.
“Upon hearing reports of deteriorating conditions at the facility after Hurricane Ida made landfall, LDH inspectors promptly visited the site but were expelled from the property and prevented from conducting a full assessment on Tuesday, August 31,” the state department of health said in a Saturday’s statement.
“In addition, LDH team members were subject to intimidation by the owner of the seven nursing facilities.”
The hundreds of nursing home evacuees who survived were spread out to shelters and hospitals across the state after the Louisiana Department of Health determined the Waterbury Companies Inc. warehouse wasn’t safe for the evacuees after the storm.
“What happened in Independence is reprehensible, and I know there are many families hurting as a result,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips. “Today’s action against these facilities is needed. There is more to come. Our Department’s mission is to advance the health and wellbeing of our residents — and that includes our vulnerable nursing home residents.”
Attorney General Jeff Landry said Friday that his office has started its own review of the evacuation decisions.
The LDH says individuals looking for loved ones evacuated from one of the seven nursing homes should call 211, which is coordinating with LDH’s Office of Aging and Adult Services which directly helps to connect families.
“Since standing up the hotline via 211, LDH has connected with more than 200 families of nursing home residents who evacuated to the Independence facility. Also, LDH is proactively reaching out to families of nursing home residents.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.