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Calls for help from makeshift shelter for nursing homes started hours after first residents arrived

8 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Tuesday, September 07 2021 Sep 7, 2021 September 07, 2021 10:08 AM September 07, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

INDEPENDENCE – More than 50 calls were made to 911 operators from a cramped warehouse where seven nursing homes were evacuated to from the greater New Orleans area two days before Hurricane Ida made landfall.

The makeshift evacuation center inside a former agriculture chemical warehouse was set up Friday, Aug. 27, and was quickly overrun with more than 800 residents from nursing homes across  southeastern Louisiana.  All facilities have ties to Baton Rouge businessman Bob Dean.

Seven people housed at the warehouse-turned-makeshift shelter have died.  A dozen needed urgent medical care and hospitalization after being rescued last week.  Hundreds more were transferred to state shelters.

Read more from the WBRZ Investigative Unit

As death toll rises, state shuts down nursing homes that evacuated residents to makeshift shelter

'Warehouse of death': Death toll among evacuated residents climbs

After previously okaying warehouse shelter, LDH pivots to blame operator in deadly evacuation

Stream WBRZ newscasts here

Calls for help began almost immediately as residents were moved into the facility Aug. 27, according to 911 call logs obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit.  Details of the calls were released to WBRZ Monday (Labor Day), a week since the storm trampled southeastern parts of the state.

An afternoon 911 call on Friday, August 27, a few minutes before 5 o’clock was the first of many calls for help from people at the facility.  At 4:54, a caller advised “a patient is having trouble breathing.”

It was only the beginning.

“[Debbie] thinks she was kidnapped, she is a senior citizen that was in a nursing home evacuated here due to the hurricane,” call notes show about the second call for help – just after midnight on Saturday.

And, the calls kept rolling in.

“A patient in the shelter is fighting everyone,” dispatch logs show from a 911 call Saturday night.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Attorney General's Office—which is investigating the debacle—made a public plea for anyone with information on the "transfer, conditions, or deaths" of those residents sheltered in the warehouse to come forward. Those with details are asked to contact the AG's Office at 888-799-6885.

The Louisiana Department of Health – which swooped in and quickly tried to correct the issue – revealed Sunday, it previously okayed the nursing homes’ move to the shelter.

The shelter opened up Friday and the 911 calls poured in until one last note – midday on Thursday when the report notes a sheriff’s deputy on the scene “advises about twenty ambulances there evacuating the residents.”

From Friday evening to Thursday afternoon - nearly a week - 911 operators took calls begging for help from residents and even workers as the situation inside deteriorated.

Nearly back-to-back calls about unresponsive patients at the warehouse noted that 911 calls were “not the same” person and explained there were multiple unresponsive people needing care at the facility at once.

“They need a second ambulance,” a Saturday morning call for help notes.  “They have another patient not responding.”

Frantic workers or residents would often call 911 for help and call back when ambulances were not responding fast enough, documents show. 

“[The caller is] requesting eta for [the ambulance] due to CPR in progress,” a note documents about a frantic call from the facility near downtown Independence around 2:30 Monday afternoon.

Other calls advised residents did “not look good” and, in one case, “not really answering or responding to her,” a caller advised in a call for help around the time Ida was making landfall.

Hours before the storm hit Independence, at least one resident was hoping to leave: A stroke patient called 911 to report “he is laying on the floor and is being treated poorly.”  The line disconnected before a further conversation could be had, operators noted.

Residents were evacuated on Thursday, September 2.

Sunday, a week after the storm, state health regulators revealed the health department okayed the move and inspectors were shocked things got so hellacious.

“Conditions clearly deteriorated following the storm. According to LDH surveyors, residents’ basic care needs were not met. Residents were in varying stages of undress, and were not adequately attended to. There were piles of linens and trash on the floor, and a stench of urine and feces throughout the building. And it was clear to receiving hospitals that residents had been neglected.”

Health regulators and the Louisiana Attorney General have promised investigations.  Crime scene tape was seen around the warehouse late last week.

Dean, the Baton Rouge businessman tied to all the nursing home operations involved, has avoided TV cameras amid the high-profile failures at the warehouse.

WBRZ filed a public records request for call documents and recordings related to the makeshift shelter.  Audio was not released Monday due to a technical issue amid the post-storm recovery in Tangipahoa Parish. 

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