BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s Department of Health is revoking the licenses of seven nursing homes owned by Baton Rouge businessman Bob Dean after more than 800 residents were evacuated and housed in an “inhumane” warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish during Hurricane Ida.
Stephen Russo, the agency’s top attorney, announced the action during Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Tuesday press conference.
Seven nursing home residents in Louisiana died after being evacuated during Hurricane Ida to a warehouse in the town of Independence, where conditions were later determined to be unhealthy and unsafe, according to state health officials, who said they’ve launched an investigation into the facility.
None of the seven nursing homes is housing residents now.
Russo said no evacuation plan allows nursing home residents to be kept in such “unsafe” and “inhumane” conditions.
He said the agency is conducting its own investigation and cooperating with other law enforcement agencies’ investigations like the one being conducted by Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Russo said his agency’s investigators have encountered resistance from nursing home administrators and were “intimidated” by Dean through a phone conversation. Russo said Dean also ordered LDH personnel off the property.
“All of these nursing facilities clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents,” Health Department Secretary Courtney Phillips said in a press release. “When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted; an individual representing himself as the nursing home owner 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.
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“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 agency did give prior approval to Dean’s evacuation plan to the warehouse, but Russo said Dean and his staff failed to deliver “the basic necessities and safety requirements.”
Russo said the agency began rescuing the more than 800 nursing home residents from the warehouse on Tuesday, two days after Hurricane Ida made landfall and after multiple 911 calls from the facility.
“By Tuesday we knew we had to get in there … and I believe those rescue efforts were heroic,” Russo said.
He declined to provide more details.
“These are ongoing legal matters so I’m not going to speak on the ins and outs of the investigation,” he said.
Contributing The Associated Press