BATON ROUGE — A new lawmakers’ proposal — filed in response to a disastrous series of hurricane evacuations that ended in the deaths of more than a dozen people — would mandate stricter oversight of nursing homes while by limiting the risk for the State to face legal reactions.
House Bill 933 would require such facilities to submit an “after action” report to review how their evacuation plans fared in the wake of a natural disaster, but the proposal also states that such reports must be hidden from public view.
“…after-action reports will be confidential and exempt from disclosure under current public records law,” the bill reads in part.
The proposal also states that the state would not be liable for “death or any injury to persons or damage to property” in situations like the one that unfolded last year in the parish of Tangipahoa, where more than 800 people were crammed into a warehouse to ride Hurricane Ida.
Seven nursing homes, all linked to Baton Rouge businessman Bob Dean, moved their residents and some staff into the makeshift shelter. The state sent inspectors to inspect the facility after health officials were made aware of the horrific living conditions inside, but they were ultimately “evicted” from the property.
State officials then conducted a rescue operation at the shelter days after the storm hit and found four people dead inside. Within weeks of the evacuation, 15 people had died, though the Louisiana Department of Health only classified five of those deaths as ‘storm-related’ due to patient ages and other factors.
The bill states that a nursing home should notify the Louisiana Department of Health of its intention to move to an unlicensed shelter within one hour of making that decision and that the state may make on-site inspections at any time deemed necessary.
Lawsuits filed following the evacuation allege family members were misled and staff failed to maintain living conditions inside the warehouse. The state was also embroiled in the legal battle after it was revealed that the health department originally approved the ill-fated evacuation plan.
“Somehow the state of Louisiana approved a hurricane evacuation plan and said ‘you know what? let these people sit out until the storm passes,” Ron Haley, the attorney for one of the victims, told WBRZ last year.
Care homes involved in these lawsuits have since lost their licenses and fired hundreds of staff.