INDEPDENDENCE, La. (WAFB) – The State of Louisiana is scrambling to get more than 800 nursing home residents to safety.
The state says, just before Hurricane Ida roared ashore, someone made the call to empty out seven different nursing homes- evacuating the people to a warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish.
The state said Thursday that four of the residents have died and a dozen others had to be taken to the hospital.
In a statement, Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller calls it upsetting.
He added that “our hearts are breaking for the families impacted by this avoidable tragedy.”
Miller says they reached out to the facility and the state once they heard about the situation.
When the 9News Investigators reached out to LDH, a spokesperson with the agency said they tried to send inspectors to the facility earlier this week but were kicked off the property.
The state later sent a team of investigators back to the property to get those residents out.
Records obtained by the 9News Investigators show all of the nursing homes are owned by Bob Dean, Jr.
WAFB tried to call a number listed for him but did not get an answer.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter went to Dean’s downtown office, dean enterprises but the lights were out, the door was locked and no one was there.
Dean was able to be reached by phone late Thursday afternoon. He says they did a good job given the circumstances.
“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,” said Dean.
When asked about why state investigators were kicked off the property, he says it was to protect the privacy of the residents inside. He also claims the state tried to enter the place illegally. .
“The fourth amendment says that they have to have a warrant to come on private property, much less seize persons or properties so they came on there illegally,” Dean added.
Tonight, representatives with LDH say their top priority is getting those residents to safety… so far within 24 hours, the agency says 721 of those residents were rescued as the state continues to investigate.
AARP Louisiana State Director, Denise Bottcher issued the following statement in response to the four nursing home residents in Tangipahoa Parish that died in a mass shelter:
“AARP Louisiana is calling on state and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the warehousing of vulnerable, medically fragile adults and seniors during Hurricane Ida. Nursing homes have a duty to care for their residents, which includes planning for emergencies and evacuations. These tragic deaths are the result of a complete failure of oversight, enforcement, and planning dating back more than a decade.
“Nursing homes need stricter standards and more accountability. AARP Louisiana calls on state leaders to reform the broken long-term care system. Instead of spending billions on bleak, sub-par but expensive nursing homes, we should focus efforts on helping more seniors live in their own homes with support.
“It’s a privilege to hold a nursing home license. It’s time to take it away from the facilities involved in this tragedy.
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