Louisiana Department of Health aware of plans for nursing homes to use warehouse for evacuation site


(CNN) — The Louisiana Department of Health was aware of plans from seven nursing homes to evacuate their residents to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana, to shelter during Hurricane Ida.

Seven residents died before state health officials transported hundreds of people from the warehouse to other nursing facilities on September 2, five days after the hurricane tore through the state.

Emergency preparedness plans and surveys from the seven nursing homes obtained by CNN designated the warehouse as an evacuation site. Those documents also reveal that the seven facilities planned to evacuate their residents to the warehouse, which had a listed capacity of 700 beds, despite the nursing homes having more than 1,000 combined licensed beds.

Under the Louisiana Department of Health’s formal rules, the nursing homes’ emergency preparedness information must be submitted to the state for annual review by the department, suggesting state health officials were aware that nursing home administrators intended to move their residents to the warehouse in the event of an emergency such as Ida.

Business licenses and court documents show that Bob Dean Jr. of Baton Rouge is the owner of all seven nursing facilities, in addition to the warehouse.

By the time the Health Department closed down the warehouse evacuation site, it was well over its planned capacity by at least 143 evacuees, according to the plans and surveys obtained by CNN through public records requests to four parish governments.

Two nurses described the conditions in the warehouse to CNN as horrific, saying that in addition to the unsanitary conditions, they also dealt with supply shortages and electricity cuts.

At least 30 calls to 911 from the facility requested emergency assistance for residents experiencing a variety of medical episodes, including heart attacks and seizures. Logs of the calls obtained by CNN show other residents had stopped breathing or were unresponsive.

Two lawsuits have since been filed against the nursing homes and Dean over the warehouse evacuation.

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