Seven Louisiana nursing home facilities have lost their licenses after at least seven residents died when they were evacuated to a warehouse during Hurricane Ida, officials announced.
The nursing homes, which all appear to be under the same ownership, failed to “execute an evacuation plan that upheld residents’ human dignity,” the state Health Department said in a statement Tuesday.
The facility where the residents were moved was in Independence, in Tangipahoa Parish, about 70 miles north of New Orleans. State inspectors described it as a “warehouse site.”
Initial inspections found that the facility met a “minimum” standard of safe shelter, but the owner failed to communicate the “dire situation” as conditions deteriorated, the Health Department said.
Local health care workers reported that residents were placed on mattresses that were sitting in stormwater on the floor and that people were left in their own waste, NBC affiliate WDSU reported.
A state surveyor who went to evaluate the situation after hearing that the level of care had “plummeted” was forced to leave without conducting a proper inspection, the state health secretary, Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, said in Tuesday’s statement.
“Ultimately, lives were lost — these were grandparents, neighbors and friends, and we know families are hurting,” Phillips said. “We as a Department are taking formal regulatory action.”
The Health Department has confirmed seven deaths of nursing home residents who were evacuated to the Independence facility, five of which have been classified as storm-related.
The Health Department said last week that it was working to find safe placements for the 843 residents.
The facilities named Tuesday were River Palms Nursing and Rehab, South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, West Jefferson Health Care Center, Maison De Ville Nursing Home and Maison Deville Nursing Home of Harvey.
All seven appear to be owned by Bob Dean, according to NursingHomeDatabase.com, which aggregates data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Dean did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
He defended the evacuations in an interview with television station WAFB of Baton Rouge last week, saying the state surveyor was kicked off the property to protect residents’ privacy.
“We only had five deaths within the six days, and normally with 850 people you’ll have a couple a day, so we did really good with taking care of people,” Dean said.
State Attorney General Jeff Landry, who said Tuesday that his office was investigating the “tragedy,” urged the public to provide information “regarding the transfer, conditions, or deaths of nursing home residents.”
The Associated Press contributed.