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Health inspector ‘expelled’ from facility following 4 nursing home deaths in squalid conditions in Tangipahoa Parish

Family members of those evacuated from these 7 nursing homes before Hurricane Ida can call 211 to connect
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 3:38 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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INDEPENDENCE, La. (WAFB) - At least four nursing home residents died at a facility in Tangipahoa Parish that housing more than 800 residents who had been evacuated from the New Orleans area, officials with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announced on Thursday, Sept. 2.

LDH and Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller decried the treatment of the seniors, and three of the deaths have been classified as storm-related by the parish coroner. They said they had called for inspections of the temporary shelter where the seniors were brought on Aug. 27, after hearing reports of squalid conditions, but that they were turned away and expelled from the property.

LDH officials said they had been working to relocate 843 nursing home patients, starting with the most vulnerable, who were evacuated from seven assisted-living facilities in Orleans, Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. According to records held by the Louisiana Secretary of State, each of the facilities is operated by New Orleans businessman Bob Dean.

MORE: At least 4 nursing home evacuees die under squalid conditions in Tangipahoa Parish, officials say

WAFB’s lead investigator Scottie Hunter attempted to speak to Dean at his office in Baton Rouge on Thursday afternoon but no one was at the office.

Identities of the deceased seniors and the days of their deaths were not immediately disclosed.

“We are terribly sorry about this, especially to the families who lost their loved ones,” Miller said. “We had no authority or jurisdiction over this. But red flags went up when we first heard it was supposed to be 200 people or 300 people and next thing we knew it was 800. We were the ones who called the Department of Health and the fire marshall and tried to get this looked at.

“I want to be clear: This was not something permitted by the parish. This was a person who chose Independence as this backup location. It’s not ours at all.”

The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office said the Independence Police Department would be the agency in charge of investigating the deadly situation. But in an astonishing interview with Lee Zurik of WAFB’s sister station WVUE-Fox 8, Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards said he had not concluded an investigation was needed.

“I’m not aware of an investigation. ... I don’t mean to be crass, but under the circumstances those numbers (at least four dead) do not strike me as being unusual,” Edwards said. “I’m not apologizing for anyone. I was there, and I wouldn’t have wanted my mother or grandmother to be in those conditions. I just don’t think with the resources I have right now that an investigation would be the best way of using them.”

LDH says it sent an inspector to the facility on Tuesday, Aug. 31 after receiving numerous complaints and reports about reports of “deteriorating conditions” at the facility after Hurricane Ida made landfall.

The inspector was “expelled from the property and prevented from conducting a full assessment,” officials say.

“We have significant concerns about conditions in this facility,” LDH said in a statement Thursday.

LDH officials tell the 9News Investigators when the LDH inspector arrived at the facility, the site manager pulls the inspector to the side and handed them a phone. The facility manager then demanded over the phone that the inspector leave the facility, officials say.

The inspector, who felt threatened, left the site and LDH later returned and began evacuating the nursing home residents from the facility.

“Unless under a mandatory evacuation order, nursing homes make the decision of when and where to evacuate. They must always provide safe conditions for their residents,” LDH officials said.

LDH says it had evacuated 721 nursing home residents from the facility by 9:46 a.m. Thursday and is continuing to work with other state agencies and local officials to quickly find proper accommodations for the other residents.

On Thursday evening, state officials said the nursing home residents were being transported to two locations in Baton Rouge, LSU and the Raising Cane’s River Center, and the state’s mega shelter in Alexandria.

The nursing home residents were evacuated from the following nursing homes to the facility in Tangipahoa Parish:

  • River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Orleans Parish
  • South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Lafourche 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, Terrebonne Parish
  • Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish

The state agency said 12 individuals required hospitalizations upon being rescued from the facility. “This is a serious and active investigation. We will be taking action against these nursing facilities, and will be making appropriate referrals to law enforcement,” LDH said.

The state says family members of those evacuated from these nursing homes can call 211 for more information.

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