NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Death toll dropped from seven to 15 among nursing home residents evacuated before Hurricane Ida to a warehouse where conditions were deemed too squalid for safety, the state’s health department said Thursday.
However, a department statement noted that some fatalities may be unrelated to the storm or conditions in the warehouse.
“Over time and given the health conditions that required a level of nursing home care, unfortunately the number of deaths among this group is likely to increase,” he said. “This is why it is important to distinguish between the total number of deaths from any cause and the number of storm-related deaths.”
The number coroners have classified as linked to the storm remains at five, Department of Health spokesman Kevin Litten said in an email. He said coroners were investigating others.
John McLindon, attorney for Bob Dean, who owns seven nursing homes evacuated to the warehouse, said he was confident Dean would be cleared.
“There is no evidence that the evacuation caused or contributed to any of these deaths,” he said.
The health department said 843 people were brought to the warehouse in Independence City, and more than 50 of them had to be hospitalized afterwards.
Authorities said the warehouse reeked of urine and feces, with some people lying in dirty clothes, without food, on mattresses on the floor. Garbage was piled on the ground, there was water in the building and the generators broke at least temporarily, state officials said.
McLindon said he would appeal the ministry’s dismissal Dean’s Nursing Home Licenses and Medicaid Provider Agreements by the Oct. 6 deadline.
The first five deaths were all in people in palliative care, he said. âWhen you are in hospice care, you are at the end of your life,â McLindon said.
The state attorney general has opened a criminal investigation and state health officials are investigating the deaths.
Dean told media that, given their age and frailty, two or three people in his home die each day under normal circumstances.
Dean faces at least five lawsuits from nursing home residents and their families, the newspaper reported.