Ida aftermath: Louisiana health officials revoke licenses of 7 nursing homes after evacuee deaths

INDEPENDENCE, La. — Louisiana health officials on Tuesday revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes that evacuated more than 800 residents ahead of Hurricane Ida to a warehouse where seven of them died.

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The seven homes “clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents,” Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips said in a statement.

All seven of the facilities are owned by Bob Dean, NOLA.com reported.

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Tuesday’s action came three days after the department ordered the immediate, but temporary, closure of Dean’s facilities. The LDH also confirmed in its announcement that it will be terminating Medicaid provider agreements with Dean’s nursing homes, the news outlet reported.

Ida made landfall Aug. 29 as a strong Category 4 storm at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, packing 150 mph winds that tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S. The storm has been blamed for at least 13 deaths along the Gulf Coast and dozens more after the Ida’s remnants dumped torrential rains across the U.S. northeast.

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In their decision to revoke Dean’s licenses, health department officials cited uninhabitable conditions discovered at the three-building warehouse complex used to house evacuees in Independence, Louisiana. Health department lawyer Stephen Russo called the conditions “inhumane.”

Specifically, authorities found some of the relocated nursing home residents lying on mattresses on the floor, without food or clean clothes, and detected strong odors of urine and feces. According to officials, piles of trash were found on the floor, water freely entered the building and generators, at least temporarily, failed.

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A police official told The Associated Press that the Tangipahoa Parish warehouse was equipped to handle 300 to 500 people but ultimately took in more than 800, all of whom were evacuated from the seven nursing homes ahead of Ida’s landfall.

Jennifer Avegno, director of New Orleans’ health department, told The Washington Post that a total of nine nursing home facilities across the area were evacuated ahead of Ida because of “emergent threats to life and safety,” requiring hundred of tenants to be shuttled to state-run shelters in safer areas of the state.

Meanwhile, state health officials told the AP that Dean failed to contact them for help and threw agency inspectors off the property when they arrived on-site to review conditions after receiving reports of problems. Despite the resistance encountered, hundreds of evacuees were relocated - a second time - to special needs shelters across the state.