Authorities Wednesday began removing the remains of more than 30 people from a flooded nursing home in a suburban parish.
The discovery at St. Rita’s Nursing Home in lower St. Bernard Parish came as 25,000 body bags arrived at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. (Full story)
On Thursday, the official death toll from Hurricane Katrina stood at 294, but that number is expected to rise dramatically.
Mortuary teams with refrigerated trucks began arriving Wednesday at the nursing home, where St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stevens said “30-plus” bodies were found. Between 40 and 50 other people were rescued from the facility, Stevens said.
The way this story is written, one would assume that the staff just chose to run off and leave people. However, after talking with a source who has people on the ground in New Orleans, I believe that may or may not be the case. Apparently, each Parish has its own Emergency Director. For quite some time, some nursing homes in some parishes have been trying to work with the Director regarding evacuations–particularly focusing on the fact that some residents are so fragile that it is dangerous to evacuate them. The homes have been requesting that hospitals allow them to place such residents on higher floors out of the way of floodwaters. The hospitals have refused. (Can’t you just hear their lawyers talking?) They have refused even though most of their patients would be evacuated and space would, allegedly, not be a factor. My source, who is not affiliated with St. Rita, is unhappy that the Parish Emergency Directors would not require the hospitals to allow the nursing homes to place residents at those hospitals. After all, the government was, in some cases, willing to commandeer buses chartered by the facilities to move residents–why couldn’t they require hospitals to give up unoccupied floors?
Apparently, what happened in some of these cases is that when the nursing homes started flooding, the staff could not move the residents (who had no where to go), as the water rose–the staff had to escape to save themselves from drowning. If this is true, it is a horrible scenario–but you can’t blame the staff.
Another problem according to my source, was that, although some facilities chartered buses, the bus drivers had fled the area and there was no one to drive them. I wonder how many residents were impacted by that?
Regardless, you may read many stories about dead residents found in nursing homes over the next few days. Just remember, the media may not be giving you all the facts behind these stories.
Update: I am updating this because I am extremely angry at the media for not adequately reporting about this. I think that they are setting up a situation where these nursing homes are going to be blamed. Perhaps some of them have fault. I doubt it. If you own one of these nursing homes, please ensure that you have documented every action your staff took to evacuate residents. If your buses were commandeered, document it. If the bus drivers didn’t show up, document it.
If you followed your emergency plan and were thwarted by the government, document it. If CMS moves against you–call your lawyer.