PLAQUEMINE, La. (WAFB) - Gina Sanchez has no problem making meals for her mother and being her full-time caregiver.
Sanchez quit her job and took on the role after raising serious concerns about her mother’s treatment at Iberville Oaks Nursing & Rehab in Plaqumine, such as questioning whether or not her mother was being fed. Sanchez says additionally, after she learned about the constantly revolving door with the facility’s upper management, she knew it was time to take her mother home.
Kendra Hines, a former employee at Iberville Oaks, echoes Sanchez’s concerns.
“For the most part, there are some serious issues with staffing and quality of care that need to be addressed,” said Hines.
Hines says she was forced out of her role at the home because of the knowledge she had about neglect and abuse at the facility.
“You have patients who are not fed at all, or are not fed on time. They’re not getting their medication on time, or most times not at all. Their hygiene is unkempt. Their bed pans are not being changed like they are supposed to,” said Hines.
It’s allegations like those made by Hines and Sanchez that continue to be reported to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).
Mark Thomas, deputy secretary of LDH sat down with WAFB’s Kiran Chawla to discuss the allegations for the first time.
THOMAS: Because of additional complaints, we have increased the monitoring at Iberville Oaks
KIRAN: And what’s that mean? Daily? Weekly?
THOMAS: If there’s a violation where someone’s health and safety, which is not the case here, but if someone’s health and safety is in jeopardy, we could be out there everyday for weeks at a time
In the middle of the interview, Kiran showed evidence collected during WAFB’s previous investigations at the facility, including patients staying in soiled diapers for multiple days.
THOMAS: Very disturbing. What I can say is we have an active investigation into the facility that is ongoing and I cannot talk specifics, but I can say if those things are accurate, all of those things will be addressed.
LDH, formerly known as the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, says they legally have to investigate any claim made to them. However, Sanchez says they’re failing at their job. She claims anytime she went to visit her mother, it was obvious workers had been made aware state investigators were coming for an inspection. On those days, the nursing home staff made sure to clean up their act.
SANCHEZ: The parking lot was full of cars. They had more workers than they did on any other day. You walked in, they were cleaning like they never did, painting, everything was just very obvious. We knew.
KIRAN: So are you trying to say that the state really wasn’t getting a true sense of what was really going on?
Thomas continues to deny those claims. He says LDH performs unannounced inspections every nine to 15 months unless the facility is new and the state needs to notify mangers so certain employees are present.
Two inspections performed at Iberville Oaks in 2019 revealed several deficiencies. In 2018, the facility was reduced to a provisional license, meaning employees had to fix all violations before its full license could be restored.
KIRAN: When does the state say enough is enough?
THOMAS: If there is institutional situation where people’s lives are put at risk and we’ve gone in there and confirmed that, these are immediate jeopardies, then we would have to consider removing that organization.
Kiran: And that’s not the case at Iberville Oaks?
THOMAS: There is no life-threatening violation there.
However, Hines continues to push back on the explanations provided by Thomas.
“I think it is criminal and very illegal to purposely neglect someone who is on capable of caring for themselves,” said Hines.
Sanchez says LDH needs to take a more active role in protecting citizens who have limited abilities to fend for themselves against those meant to be working in their best interest.
“If there are not changes made from the top that funnel down to the lowest position, things will remain the same. We will continue to see these issues pop up at several nursing homes,” said Sanchez.
The president of Iberville Oaks, Bob Dean, repeatedly told WAFB’s investigators he was not available. When those same investigators appeared at his office, two people in the lobby left and ignored repeated knocks on the door.
Hines put out a desperate plea for mangers at the nursing home to make changes.
KIRAN: What do you say to the administrators of this nursing home?
HINES: Please do something. These people do not deserve this. They pay for a quality of care that they are not receiving and at the end of the day, they pay or not, these are human lives.
Investigations by the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, LDH, and the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General remain ongoing.