River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Orleans Parish, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Orleans Parish, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, Jefferson Parish, West Jefferson Health Care Center, Jefferson Parish, Maison Deville Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish, South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Lafourche Parish, and Maison De Ville Nursing Home, Terrebonne Parish are the facilities accused of warehousing residents in unsanitary conditions.
According to the state’s health department, seven residents died while sheltered at the warehouse in the town of Independence, Louisiana.
Over 800 residents of seven nursing homes, which are all owned by Bob Dean, were evacuated to the warehouse for safety from the tropical storm. According to a police officer, the capacity of the warehouse could only house 300-500- people, NPR reported.
When officials arrived at the warehouse, they witnessed seniors lying on mattresses on the floor, lacking food or clean clothes, and detected strong odors of feces throughout the warehouse.
The evacuation strategy of the nursing homes "clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents," Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips said in a statement.
"When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted," she continued. "Ultimately, lives were lost. These were grandparents, neighbors and friends, and we know families are hurting."
State health officials said that Dean failed to contact them for help and forced inspectors from the agency off the property.
When questioned about the evacuation plan, Dean defended his company’s handling of the situation.
“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,” he told WVUE in an interview.
Before the evacuation fiasco, Dean’s nursing facilities garnered poor federal ratings for the quality of care they offered based on inspections, the Associated Press reported. Six of the seven nursing homes received the lowest rating possible from Medicare.gov and five other sites were harshly criticized for the quality of resident care.
Many family members of the residents have filed class-action lawsuits against Dean and the seven nursing facilities from which residents were moved. The suit claims that the defendants "intentionally misrepresented the actual evacuation plan, choosing not to inform family members of the planned evacuation or tell them where the residents were being taken."
In a news release, the state's health department noted that five of the seven deaths have been classified as storm-related.
Attorney General Jeff Landry and state officials have launched investigations into the deaths.