By Sarah Ahmed
Twelve residents of senior-living apartment complexes and nursing homes in New Orleans have died following Hurricane Ida evacuations due to gross negligence from the private businesses and non-profits that own these facilities. The failure of the capitalist state to properly manage evacuations and protect the elderly and medically vulnerable during the storm is another factor in the deaths.
Last weekend, nearly a week after Ida’s landfall, the city of New Orleans evacuated the residents at ten senior-living apartment complexes across the city. Five people were found dead during the evacuation of over 600 residents, with the coroner classifying the deaths as “likely storm related”.
Christopher Homes, a “senior living ministry” of the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, owns several of the facilities and has deflected responsibility and attempted to blame the state for not issuing an evacuation order before the hurricane hit New Orleans. In a statement, Christopher Homes said that residents were responsible for their own evacuation plans during hurricane season—even though many residents use mobility aids and would not be able to evacuate the building without assistance.
The state has also tried to put the blame solely on the nursing home operators, even though the government repeated the same errors made during Hurricane Katrina and had no evacuation plan in place for elderly residents prior to Hurricane Ida. The state only began evacuating residents after city council was alerted to the lack of electricity and staff at the senior-living apartments owned by Christopher Homes.
Two residents at the Flint-Goodridge Apartments, an apartment complex for the elderly owned by HRI Properties, told the New Orleans Advocate media outlet that the staff left them the Friday before the storm without any instructions. Another resident, Debra Pierre, pointed out that HRI properties had effectively abandoned residents to the hurricane, saying “Providing water and food? That’s a lie. Those people didn’t send us anything.”
One elderly resident of Flint-Goodridge, Joyce James, told the Advocate she was only able to leave the building after more than 48 hours without power. “I caught pure hell in that apartment. They left us like we were dogs.”
The local community organized food and ice drop-offs at Christopher Inn, one of the senior-living facilities owned by Christopher Homes.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Bob Dean, the owner of seven nursing homes, after seven residents died during an evacuation to a warehouse in preparation for Hurricane Ida and another 14 were injured. The lawsuit states that Dean purposefully misled residents’ families about where residents were being taken, claiming that the warehouse was hurricane-proof and safe for residents when it was actually an industrial warehouse owned by Dean.
The lawsuit describes inhumane and unsanitary living conditions for the seniors who were transported to the warehouse. The warehouse only contained four sinks and ten to twelve showers for 850 residents, and the only restrooms available were portable toilets.
The lawsuit states, “Residents unsuccessfully called out to the representatives of Defendants for food, water, medicine, and to be relieved of their soiled diapers, clothes, and bed linens (for those who were provided linens) but their calls went unanswered. Many residents spent as many as six (6) days in the fetid warehouse with overflowing toilets and piled-up trash.”
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