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'I knew they wouldn't be safe' | Inside the warehouse where 4 nursing home residents died

“I knew they wasn’t going to be safe for the residents and for the workers. We did the best we could with what we had.”

INDEPENDENCE, La. — One of the workers caring for the more than 800 nursing home residents evacuated to a warehouse in Independence said that he “expected” some residents would die because of how bad the conditions were.

The unidentified worker spoke with reporter Erika Ferrando and said that the facility was overcrowded and there weren’t enough workers there to take care of the residents.

“Just wasn’t enough room, living conditions wasn’t good. It was too crowded. Didn’t have enough people,” he said.

Four of the 850 nursing home residents sheltered inside a leaky warehouse during Hurricane Ida have died. More residents were evacuated from the warehouse on stretchers and in wheelchairs, being taken by ambulance to safe facilities for treatment.

Three of the four residents who have died since the storm have been classified as storm-related. Definitive causes of death have not been determined for any of the four.

The worker said that people were sleeping on mattresses on the floor and even though there was enough food and water for everyone, there weren’t enough workers there to help the nursing home residents eat and drink.

“The conditions weren’t good enough,” he said. “I knew they wasn’t going to be safe for the residents and for the workers. We did the best we could with what we had.”

At one point, part of the warehouse flooded, making the already over-crowded facility even tighter.

“It was intense,” the worker said. “We didn’t have privacy to take care of them. We were changing everybody right by everybody and with the COVID there just wasn’t enough space. It was awful.”

At least 721 of the facility's residents have already been "rescued," according to LDH. Twelve had to be sent to the hospital for medical treatment.

The hundreds of residents packed into the warehouse were from seven nursing homes across the state: River Palms Nursing and Rehab in Orleans Parish, South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab in Lafourche Parish, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center in Orleans Parish, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home in Jefferson Parish, West Jefferson Health Care Center in Jefferson Parish, Maison DeVille Nursing Home in Terrebonne Parish, Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Harvey in Jefferson Parish.

The warehouse appears to be owned by the same person who owns those seven nursing homes.

LDH inspectors said they were notified about poor living conditions at the facility after Hurricane Ida, and they tried to investigate in person. But they say nursing home staff turned them away at the door despite the state's authority to conduct investigations into nursing homes.

Louisiana law allows nursing homes to decide where to evacuate while under a mandatory evacuation order, but requires they must provide a safe place for the residents.

According to the worker, that wasn’t the case in Independence.

“I felt bad for ‘em,” he said. “Real bad. Really truly bad.”