Louisiana Nursing Homes: Department of Health aware of plans to use them as warehouse for evacuation site

Emergency preparedness plans and investigations of the seven nursing homes obtained by CNN have designated the warehouse as an evacuation site. These documents also reveal that the seven facilities planned to evacuate their residents to the warehouse, which had a listed capacity of 700 beds, although the nursing homes have more than 1,000 licensed beds combined.

Under formal rules from the Louisiana Department of Health, information about nursing home emergency preparedness must be submitted to the state for annual review by the department, suggesting that health officials from the nursing home State knew that nursing home administrators intended to move their residents to the warehouse in the event of an emergency like Ida.

Business licenses and court documents show that Bob Dean Jr. of Baton Rouge is the owner of the seven nursing homes, in addition to the warehouse.

By the time the Department of Health closed the warehouse evacuation site, it was well over its planned capacity of at least 143 evacuees, according to plans and surveys obtained by CNN in connection with requests for files public addressed to four parish governments.

Two nurses described the conditions in the warehouse to CNN as horrific, saying that in addition to the unsanitary conditions, they also faced supply shortages and blackouts.

At least 30 calls to the facility’s 911 have requested emergency help for residents facing various medical episodes, including heart attacks and seizures. Call logs obtained by CNN show other residents had stopped breathing or were not responding.

Two lawsuits have since been filed against Nursing Homes and Dean for the evacuation of the warehouse.

Louisiana state regulations require nursing home emergency plans to meet minimum licensing standards, in addition to the recommended guidelines outlined in the Louisiana Nursing Home Model Emergency Plan.

While the model plan states that “commercial facilities” can be “converted into emergency shelters,” a company “must have the designated facility inspected” by the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in the parish. or the American Red Cross for “to determine what needs to be done to make it acceptable for shelter.”

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A Louisiana State Fire Marshall inspection report dated September 1 shows the building was only cleared for use as a “warehouse (storage)” and not as “emergency evacuation shelters for nursing homes. nurses ”.

But in a recent press release from the Louisiana Department of Health, the department noted that its employees had visited the warehouse twice prior to landing, and “it appeared that from a facility point of view , the minimum components necessary to provide a safe shelter environment for a very short period of time have been met. “

According to the ministry, “there were plans for staff, food service and laundry, potable water, portable toilets and an appropriately sized generator set for the facility.”

Governor John Bel Edwards told CNN on September 2 that 843 residents – well beyond the listed capacity of 700 beds – had been moved from the warehouse. For at least two of the nursing homes, Dean was listed as the person responsible for deciding whether the facility would shelter in place or evacuate.

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A letter, signed by Dean and included in some of the surveys, also explained how each nursing home would pay their company, Plaquemine Plaza Holdings, $ 20,000 per month to access the warehouse and other facilities as a evacuation sites.

In some of the 2021 surveys, the warehouse’s primary function was listed as an evacuation site for healthcare facilities.

Dean and the governor’s office did not return CNN’s requests for comment on the plans filed with the state.

Louisiana state regulations direct the Department of Health to review all nursing home emergency preparedness plans, allowing it to notify facilities if it decides they are not responding to ” current minimum licensing requirements or do not promote the health, safety and well-being of the residents of the care facility “.

Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson Kevin Litten told CNN the department revoked the licenses for the seven facilities, which came after the attorney general’s office opened the investigation.

“The owner and administrators of the nursing homes that were evacuated to Independence, Louisiana failed to carry out the plans they set out in the emergency evacuation plan,” Litten told CNN in an email, claiming it had resulted in “grossly inadequate care.”

Litten confirmed that “LDH reviews and confirms emergency preparedness plans,” but did not say whether the department approved the evacuation plan to the warehouse or explained in detail how the facilities did not put implement their evacuation plans.

“The current law allows licensed facilities to evacuate to unlicensed facilities for a very short period of time,” Litten said. “Now whether that should change will be part of a larger conversation that many of us will have going forward. And we hope our internal review of the event can help point out where we need to go from here. here.”

In addition to the Department of Health, state health regulations also require facilities to submit their emergency evacuation plans to their local parishes, and regulations state that “any recommendations from the parish … must be documented and treated by the nursing facility. “

New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director Collin Arnold told CNN he was reviewing the evacuation plan drawn up by nursing homes, but said that he was “weak to state responsibility”.

“When I see that they have [an evacuation] location, I’m counting on the state to have due diligence on that as well, ”he said.

Even though parish officials make recommendations during their review, Arnold and Jefferson Ward official Sarah Babcock told CNN that the care facility is not required to implement the one of the recommendations.

“At least at the parish level, there is no bite there,” Babcock, the chief administrative assistant in charge of all matters of public health and emergency response, told CNN. in Jefferson Ward, by phone, saying she and others could only make suggestions. “Parishes have no supervisory or regulatory authority for nursing homes.”

In all cases, surveys completed by the seven nursing homes included checks that their emergency plans had been submitted to their local parish offices and indicated that local parish offices had given no recommendations.

Babcock did not recall reviewing the polls for nursing homes, but said the same evacuation facility shown on multiple shots would be “a red flag to us”.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Stephen Russo, director of legal, auditing and regulatory affairs for the Louisiana Department of Health, said that “there is no emergency preparedness plan. emergency that allows residents to remain in such a dangerous, unsanitary and unsanitary condition. “

“The lack of adequate care for these residents is inhumane and violates applicable rules, regulations and laws,” Russo continued.

CNN’s Isabelle Chapman contributed to this report.

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