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Zurik: Nursing homes claimed they were ready for evacuation, LDH and families disagree

In plans filed with the state and local authorities the nursing homes described plans with contingencies for supplies and food at shelters
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Evacuation plans from the seven nursing homes that had licenses revoked showed they claimed to be prepared for a large evacuation with plans for supplies and food, but the Louisiana Department of Health and families of those evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ida disagree.

LDH took action against the seven nursing homes on Tuesday, after conditions were found to be deteriorating at a warehouse being used as a shelter one week prior following the landfall of Hurricane Ida. The warehouse was owned by the same man that owned all seven nursing homes, businessman Bob Dean.

Tangipahoa Parish officials said they were only aware of a few hundred that were planned to be housed at the warehouse, but that number grew to more than 800. Seven of the residents that were evacuated died, at least four of them were deemed storm-related.

One of those evacuated was Bridges Edmonds, who said she saw people she knew die in the warehouse shelter.

She also described people being left on the ground without help to get up.

Did you work inside or have a family member evacuated to the Independence, Louisiana warehouse shelter? E-mail us at fox8investigates@fox8live.com

“It wasn’t enough people to help,” she said.

Edmonds, who spoke to FOX 8 via speakerphone during an interview with her sister, Cillen Meisler, said she has had little sleep since being taken from the Maison Deville Nursing Home in Harvey to the warehouse shelter in Independence, La.

“I’m furious right now,” Edmonds’ sister, Cillen Meisler, said.

A review of the hurricane evacuation plan submitted to the state for the Maison Deville and several other homes raises questions about whether the home followed its own guidelines.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable,” Meisler said. “And the state needs to do something to control this during the hurricane. We’ve had hurricanes, they are not new to us.”

According to several of the evacuation plans, the Independence warehouse had a bed capacity of 700, but more than 850 nursing home residents were evacuated there ahead of Ida.

Residents of Park Place Nursing Home in Jefferson Parish were also evacuated to the shelter. But that home’s evacuation report filed with the parish and state show the first option for evacuation was the Plaquemine Manor Nursing Home near Baton Rouge, which is a former nursing home owned by Bob Dean, the owner of the seven homes evacuated to the warehouse.

The Independence, La. shelter was the second or alternate option for evacuation, according to the Park Place plan. It is unclear why they were not sent to the Plaquemine location and instead to Independence.

All of the evacuation plans say the shelter would have adequate food and bathing and toilet facilities. But residents described being malnourished and needing to urinate on themselves because the facility had just a handful of portable toilets.

“They didn’t have adequate staff,” Meisler said. “She [her sister in the shelter] said the bathrooms were overflowing. People couldn’t go to the bathroom and people were using the corners of the warehouse to go to the bathroom.”

“And the food, she’s telling me they got two meals a day. And the meal at dinner was a slice of bread with macaroni and cheese.”

The evacuation plans also show the sites would have a seven day supply of medication for those evacuated. But we found patients who relied on oxygen, but had no access to it during the evacuation or at the shelter. Others went days without their prescriptions.

“They did not bring their prescriptions,” Meisler said.

Two plans we received show the capacity of the Independence warehouse shelter was 700. But two other evacuation plans show only 120 people would be allowed at the site.

We asked LDH for clarification, but so far, we haven’t received a response.

Bridges Edmonds says her friend was running low on oxygen and died at the shelter.

“I really can’t even say --- it was just horrible,” she said. “I just don’t want to think about it truthfully.”

We attempted to reach out to Bob Dean by phone calls and text messages, but he did not respond to our request for comment.

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