BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – When a major hurricane, hits Louisiana, everyone knows the drill. Board the windows, shelter in place, or get you and your family to higher ground.
But what if your loved one is in a nursing home? For many in Louisiana, that’s the case, and they are forced to trust the facilities to take care of them, during the storm.
Mickey Terranova Ryan said everyone loves her brother, Michael Terranova. An extrovert who loved to talk for hours and who loved to photograph New Orleans.
“He took a lot of photographs of major people in the music industry out of New Orleans,” Terranova Ryan said.
But when he suffered a stroke three years ago, he was forced to move into a nursing home.
“The only thing we could afford was a place like Maison Orleans,” Terranova Ryan said.
Terranova Ryan explained they were not fond of the facility, but they were trying to make it work. But when Ida hit, everything changed and the evacuation plan turned into a living nightmare.
“We were told that he was being brought to another facility in Ponchatoula or Independence, it was a warehouse… A warehouse!” Terranova Ryan expressed.
The nursing home Michael entrusted his life with was one of seven homes owned by Bob Dean. Before Ida hit, the residents of these locations were evacuated to a warehouse.
“Well, he was in a warehouse with 843 other people on a blow-up mattress on the floor,” Terranova Ryan recalled.
Survivors of the poor evacuation plan describe a hellish environment. They claim there was a lack of food, toilets, and beds. Eventually, the generator failed.
“The water was coming down the walls, they had like five inches, and all he could think about was, I guess I wonder how it feels to drown, I mean, it’s like, the worst thing you can imagine,” Terranova Ryan said with tears in her eyes.
Tragically several people died from the alleged gruesome conditions.
“They need to mandate something. They need to check every evacuation center that any nursing home is claiming that’s safe for evacuation,” Terranova Ryan said.
State Senator Kirk Talbot agrees.
“How did this happen? Who approved that evacuation plan to go to this facility this building, no power, no air conditioning, not enough port-a-lets, not enough health care to be provided with these people?” said Talbot.
“I mean they just emptied people into there without anybody knowing,” Terranova Ryan said. “Didn’t somebody have to go look at that place?”
That’s a question on a lot of people’s minds considering the fact that an evacuation plan to move the residents had been submitted to the Louisiana Department of Health. And this leads to yet another question: Who reviews such plans to make sure they’re safe?
“The law requires them to submit a plan, but who is looking at the plan to see if it’s viable or not?” Talbot asked.
Talbot is working on legislation that, if passed, would require the State Fire Marshal to check out each location for the future.
“I just hope that we can get something passed where we can prevent something like this from happening again,” said Talbot.
Another major issue is power. Losing it can be uncomfortable for many, but for those living in nursing homes, the loss of power can be a life or death matter.
“Well, what we want to do is require nursing home facilities to have generators and backup power,” said Talbot.
This is not an uncommon practice. In 2019, Florida passed a rule mandating care facilities have backup power after 12 residents of the Hollywood Hills nursing home died when Hurricane Irma knocked out their power.
“Look, the suffering these people endured was appalling, and that should never ever happen again in this day in America,” Talbot said.
Dean is facing countless lawsuits, including one filed by Ryan on behalf of her brother. But she wants the state to make real changes to ensure that no one else will experience what her brother endured.
“I love Louisiana, but they dropped the ball on this,” Terranova Ryan recalled.