Nursing homes faced a number of problems as Hurricane Laura struck the Louisiana coast while the coronavirus pandemic was still ongoing.
Evacuations create serious logistical and safety issues
When it became obvious that the storm would hit near the Texas-Louisiana border as a major hurricane, dozens of facilities in the area started to make plans for evacuations. Some facilities told residents to stay in place, due to concerns that exposure to the virus could be worse for the health of the residents than experiencing the hurricane. One director of a home near Galveston, Texas told the media that the familiar environment would give residents a better chance of survival if they stayed in place.
That particular home had an outbreak earlier in the pandemic that was responsible for 55 COVID-19 cases and 17 resident deaths. The area where the building sits was not in a flood zone, and had never experienced flooding due to a hurricane in the past. They were not subject to mandatory evacuations.
Transferring patients and moving them around in the middle of a pandemic creates serious challenges for a nursing home. However, mandatory evacuation orders resulted in about 800 residents in 11 nursing homes in Louisiana relocating to other areas. The state’s health department would not allow them to stay in place. The logistics of getting multiple buses to transport residents, as well as having emergency vehicles ready if necessary was different from any other evacuation that staff members at these facilities had experienced in the past.
Employees were totally covered in protective equipment during this move. There were also logistical issues about placing patients in safe areas with open space that would be willing to accept them. Both state and federal laws have adapted in recent years to require emergency plans at facilities and notifications for family members. One of the most recent full scale inspections and reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services found that some facilities have implemented these procedures to varying degrees, but national compliance is still far off.
The problem of hurricanes and power outages in nursing homes
Hurricanes and the summer heat can create serious problems for nursing homes. In 2017, there were a number of deaths in Hollywood, Florida at a facility where there was no power for several days and elderly residents remained in intense heat. While there have been some new regulations to try to prevent these problems, the potential for hurricanes to result in nursing home deaths still remains a very real possibility.
Speak with a nursing home abuse attorney
If you live in the Baton Rouge area and a family member has died while under the care of a nursing home, it is important to get legal assistance. To talk to someone today, contact:
3960 Government St., Baton Rouge, LA 70806