DHH to crack down on nursing home evacuation plans

Published: May. 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2013 at 10:34 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The state Department of Health and Hospitals is putting nursing homes on notice -  if they have to evacuate a nursing home because the facility couldn't execute an emergency action plan, that home will be billed.

"Sometimes we have to help," says DHH State Medical Doctor Jimmy Guidry. "The State and Federal governments bring in resources into help them to achieve moving their residents. Afterward we go in and see if the plan was feasible. They may get cited they may get a penalty for not having a feasible plan."

Joseph Donchess is with the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. He was part of sweeping legislation in 2006, aimed at avoiding a repeat of the St. Rita disaster in St. Bernard parish during Hurricane Katrina - where 35 people drowned.

"We interpreted that to mean if for some reason there is a problem that the state would do that at no additional charge to the nursing facilities," says Donchess. "I would ask them are they going to charge for everyone who shows up for medical evacuation facilities such as LSU?  Are they going to charge people who go to the shelters?"

Joy Russo works for a company that runs 20 nursing homes. She worries the smaller facilities won't be able to handle a big bill from the state.

"We do have our own plans we paid for these plans," says Russo. "But if we had issues with our building but we have a large company and we can pay our bills but I could see smaller homes with one owner having a problem paying a bill like that."

DHH officials say the rule is already in effect and there will be some exceptions during times of need.

"If it was unavoidable and they had a plan and just couldn't get it done, then that's trying to get everybody out of harm's way and not penalize anyone, just make sure everybody gets out," says Guidry.

Hurricane season starts June 1.

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