Albuquerque Journal

Ida deaths: Four nursing home residents die following evacuation

Warehouse where victims were sent deemed to be unsafe


INDEPENDEN­CE, La. — Four nursing home residents in Louisiana died after being evacuated during Hurricane Ida to a warehouse where conditions were later determined to be unhealthy and unsafe, according to state health officials who said Thursday they had launched an investigat­ion into the facility.

A total of 843 residents from seven nursing facilities — all operated by one owner — were moved to the Waterbury Companies, Inc. warehouse in the town of Independen­ce before Ida made landfall, Louisiana Department of Health spokespers­on Aly Neel said. When the hurricane hit, conditions quickly deteriorat­ed, she said.

“We know that water did enter the building,” Neel told the Associated Press, adding there were also problems with generators.

Neel said the health department received reports of people lying on mattresses on the floor, not being fed or changed, and not being socially distanced to prevent the spread of the coronaviru­s currently ravaging the state. When a large team of state health inspectors showed up Tuesday to investigat­e the warehouse, the nursing homes’ owner demanded they leave immediatel­y, Neel said.

Renetta Derosia and her sister Susan Duet came to the warehouse Thursday to check on their mother, Loretta Duet, who uses a wheelchair. Their voices choked with emotion, they questioned how their mother was treated.

“We’re just getting word now how bad it was here,” Derosia said. “Had I known, I would have taken her with us.”

The sisters thought their mother, who had been in a nursing home in Lafourche Parish, was being taken to another home with proper nursing beds when she was evacuated, Derosia said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s “grieved by the situation.”

“We’re going to do a full investigat­ion into whether these facilities, the owner of the facilities, failed to keep residents safe and whether he intentiona­lly obstructed efforts to check on them and determine what the conditions were in the shelter,” Edwards said. “And, if warranted, we will take aggressive legal action against any responsibl­e parties.”

Neel identified the owner of the nursing homes as Bob Dean, who did not immediatel­y respond Thursday to a telephone message the AP left at a number listed for him.

The website rates six of Dean’s seven nursing facilities with one star out of five, the lowest possible rating. The remaining nursing home gets two stars, still below average. Five of the nursing homes got one star for “quality of resident care.”

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