Louisiana health officials announced Tuesday that they are revoking Bob Dean’s seven nursing-home licenses after he evacuated more than 800 nursing residents to a Tangipahoa Parish warehouse for Hurricane Ida, where four people died as conditions grew increasingly hellish over a period of days after the storm’s passage.
The action by the Louisiana Department of Health comes just three days after the department had ordered the immediate but temporary closure of Dean’s nursing homes, which are currently empty of residents. The LDH also announced Tuesday that it will be terminating Medicaid provider agreements with Dean’s nursing homes.
“In all three buildings housing residents, residents were in various states of dress and piled close together on cots or floor mattresses,” department officials wrote in explaining the decision to revoke the licenses.
“The buildings were beginning to smell strongly of urine and dampness, masking was all but eliminated among the residents, and temperatures were beginning to rise; however, still no request came from the facility or site,” LDH added about an Aug. 30 visit. “The facility’s very own staff even understood the gravity of the situation and felt that staff and residents were being neglected.”
Terry Hicks spent a week trying to contact her husband of 33 years after he told her his nursing home was evacuating ahead of Hurricane Ida.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Dean said he had a deal to sell all seven nursing homes that he expected would close in a month. The loss of the nursing home licenses could be costly for Dean. Robert Hand, a New Orleans commercial real estate broker, estimated that the licenses alone could be worth $1 million per building, based on prices quoted to him by potential buyers when he previously listed a nursing home.
The state strictly limits nursing home licenses — there are roughly 280 nursing homes in Louisiana — so the loss of the licenses could substantially diminish the homes’ value.
Dean, who said he was calling from Georgia, where he owns property, also blamed the LDH for any suffering the 843 residents of his nursing homes endured. He suggested the department’s decision to move residents out of his warehouse in Independence and into other facilities was a disastrous one, adding that he was concerned that he no longer knows where his patients are. He said he worries they don’t have their medications.
Dean’s nursing homes included Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Harvey in Jefferson Parish, Maison DeVille Nursing Home in Terrebonne Parish, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center in Orleans Parish, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home in Jefferson Parish, River Palms Nursing and Rehab in Orleans Parish, South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab in Lafourche Parish, and West Jefferson Health Care Center in Jefferson Parish.
When news broke that nearly 850 frail nursing-home patients were crammed into a warehouse in a remote corner of Louisiana during Hurricane Ida…
All of the residents of those homes were transferred to the Independence warehouse two days before Hurricane Ida made landfall. Seven have died so far, and dozens more have been hospitalized.
During LDH’s final inspection before Dean kicked them off-site, “notations were made that some patients had expired and that the coroner was onsite,” according to the license revocation letters. That’s when LDH officials made the decision to relocate all residents from the warehouse to safer facilities.
Between Aug. 28 and Sept. 2, when the warehouse was evacuated, North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond received more than 50 patients from the warehouse, according to president and CEO Michele Kidd Sutton. In other words, roughly one in 16 residents taken to the warehouse had to be hospitalized.
As of Tuesday, the hospital was still treating 13 patients from the warehouse.
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In the revocation letters, LDH officials cited eight separate failures on the part of nursing home administrators. They include cruelty or indifference to the welfare of residents, failure to comply with rules for nursing homes, failure to protect residents from harmful acts of employees, failure to notify the proper authorities of suspected cases of neglect, knowingly making false statements while under investigation, failure to comply with reporting requirements, failure to allow the department to investigate and failure to allow access to records.
The revocations can be appealed within 30 days.
Nurses who worked in the warehouse and residents taken there have described being disgusted by the filth that surrounded them.
They said the air conditioner broke after the storm and a generator stopped working. They said that nursing home residents lay on mattresses on the floor — many crying out to be changed as they sat in their own feces — with few attempts to help them. Video shows much of the floor of one building flooded with a couple of inches of water, something that required moving patients and crowding them more tightly.
“It was horrendous, people calling out, people walking over other people,” said Melanie Sieberth, 65, who was one of the Park Place evacuees. “It was the worst negligence.”
One resident told LDH inspectors on Aug. 31 that the port-a-potties where “full of s — t and piss … up to the seat” and described terribly inadequate meals. “He stated his nerves are shot and he is about to have a nervous breakdown,” the inspector wrote.
Dean took issue with descriptions of his building as a warehouse, saying it was a “solid concrete” structure of about 40,000 square feet. He bragged that he was the only nursing home owner in a vast region to own an evacuation center, and defended his decision to evacuate all seven of his homes there, even though at least some of his facilities — including two in New Orleans — had generators that could power the facility for at least three days, according to emergency plans on file with the city.
“I always evacuate,” Dean said. “I can’t get away from the wind … I can get away from the water.”
After spending six days in a fetid warehouse with overflowing toilets and piled-up trash, four nursing home residents died and nearly 800 more…
He said the warehouse was well-staffed, with about 150 well-paid employees on site, and food catered by a nearby church. He said he paid registered nurses $3,000 a day to be there, and licensed practical nurses $2,000 a day.
He said he had worried that the building might flood, and it did, but he said it was lucky that the water was only about 3 inches deep.
LDH officials recorded concerns about the flooding in their revocation letters, saying they received reports of 3 to 8 inches of water flooding the warehouse. Two days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, an LDH inspector observed that the floor was “still puddled with water and smeared with dirt and mud.”
Inspectors also noted that they were troubled by interactions between nursing home residents and staff. One surveyor noted that she could “hear a patient calling out for help without any staff response whatsoever.”
Two nurses who worked inside the Tangipahoa Parish warehouse where more than 800 nursing home residents have now been rescued from squalid con…
LDH had approved Dean’s evacuation plans ahead of time, which said that he planned to house up to 700 of his residents inside of the warehouse, described as a “alternate care facility.” An LDH spokesperson said that “from a facility standpoint, the minimum necessary components to provide a safe sheltering environment for a very short period of time were met.”
But after Ida passed, conditions inside of the warehouse quickly went south.
“All of these nursing facilities clearly failed to execute their emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips in a news release Tuesday. “When issues arose post-storm, we now know the level of care for these residents plummeted … Ultimately, lives were lost — these were grandparents, neighbors and friends, and we know families are hurting. We as a Department are taking formal regulatory action.”
By August 30, LDH inspectors noted that residents were overcrowded inside the warehouse, with linens piling up and the buildings reeking of urine. One inspector overheard staff saying that “the situation was bad, staff were neglected and residents were neglected.”
The Louisiana Department of Health announced Saturday evening that they are shutting down seven nursing homes owned by Baton Rouge businessman…
But Dean downplayed the depth of the crisis. He forced inspectors off-site, yelling at them and sending them “nonsensical text messages,” many full of profanity, according to LDH. He also directed higher-ups at LDH to fire a specific employee and to “provide a written copy of her termination.”
Dean told this newspaper that he could not speculate on why state officials were so alarmed by the conditions they found.
“As far as explaining their actions, I can’t, I won’t be able to do that. I’m not them,” he said. “I think anything to make a headliner. … To get right down to the point, I don’t know, bureaucrats think and do things differently. They flip out.”
Dean said he was going to hang up because he did not like a particular line of questioning. He then did so, but texted to say he was having phone problems.
Dean is also already facing a lawsuit from four family members of nursing home residents who were evacuated to the warehouse. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Jefferson Parish, names Dean and his nursing homes as defendants.
Bob Dean, the Baton Rouge developer whose Louisiana nursing home empire is at the center of controversy after four residents died after being …
“Very quickly, the temperatures rose due to a lack of air conditioning and ventilation,” the lawsuit states. “The odors, vapors and fumes emanating from the port-a-lets became putrid, to the point that staff members and residents alike would uncontrollably vomit and heave when sensing the odors, noxious vapors, and fumes off-gassing in the area.”
Call logs to 9-1-1 also show that those living and working inside of the warehouse called for help more than 50 times over their duration of staying there, WWL-TV reported. The 9-1-1 calls began the first day that nursing home residents were evacuated to the warehouse, Aug. 27, and escalated from that point onward.
“Caller adv(ises) that he is at the warehouse and he is a stroke patient and he is laying on the floor and he is being treated poorly,” an Aug. 29 call log states.
Several callers also reported that residents were nonresponsive, in respiratory distress or experiencing other emergencies inside the warehouse. An Aug. 30 call references “a possible death already reported several times.”
Staff Writer David Mitchell contributed to this report.