63% of Louisiana Nursing Homes Not Evacuated: Why was Lafon nursing home not evacuated?

July 13, 2007

September 8, 2007 Update – Here. 

The lack of proper planning shouldn’t justify the deaths of Long Term Care patients during a hurricane. The mis-placed blame for the deaths at St. Rita’s is disgusting enough, however, LQ was unaware of the lack of evacuation at Lafon Nursing Home in Eastern New Orleans.

At Nursing Home, Katrina Dealt Only the First Blow

Nuns Labored for Days in Fatal Heat to Get Help for Patients

By Anne Hull and Doug Struck

Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 23, 2005; Page A01

{…Three weeks later, Lafon is being investigated by Louisiana’s attorney general, along with other nursing homes where people died after a failure to evacuate…}

Search LQ @ Word Press for further information concerning St. Rita’s and the LTC evacuation preparations that are being tossed back into the Federal lap instead of aiming at the local Nursing Home administrators and owners for personal responsibility for evacuations. The legal blamegame must stop in order to progress! The tax paying citizens who helped found our present should not be left behind just because local money grubbing whiners that own nursing homes lack personal responsibility in running their so called “businesses” for the Long Term Care institutions.

Louisiana Questions has posted previous articles of meetings in Florida concerning the Lack of transportation for Nursing Homes in an evacuation. Someone should be questioning Joseph Donchess.

Herald Tribune – Southwest Florida Newspaper Article excerpt May 23, 2007

Joseph Donchess, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, said he has been assured by state and federal officials that enough buses will be available if needed this year. But he expressed skepticism, given that his pleas for state police to help escort nursing home evacuees through pre-storm traffic jams have been rejected.

See Levees lawsuits and then click here for previously posted info on St. Rita’s.

Also see the DRA’s July 6th Newsletter.

July 6, 2007

Improving Transportation In The Delta

By Pete Johnson

During an intense planning retreat in 2005, the Delta Regional Authority board decided to focus its regional initiatives in the areas of transportation, health care and information technology. This has been a busy year for the authority in each of these areas, especially the area of transportation. Just six months into the year, we’ve already released the Delta Development Highway System plan, begun work on a multimodal plan for the region and continued promotion of an improved corridor from Interstate 55 in Mississippi to Interstate 40 in Arkansas.

Since the late February release of our Delta Development Highway System plan, we’ve received a great deal of media attention and numerous requests for copies of the report. Basing our efforts on the tremendous success of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s highway system during the past four decades, we’re proposing a 3,800-mile system in the eight states we cover. It wouldn’t be cheap. Our plan estimates the price tag would be $18.5 billion in 2007 dollars. But the return on investment would be huge. We predict a return of $3.5 billion in benefits per year once the system is completed. Now, the task for Delta advocates in all eight states will be to make the case to Congress that this plan should be funded.

Of the roads in the plan, 27 percent already provide four or more travel lanes. The remainder are two-lane roads that would be enhanced. Our plan calls for improvements to existing corridors and, in some cases, new corridors. The proposed miles in the Delta Development Highway System are 383 in Alabama, 704 in Arkansas, 174 in Illinois, 230 in Kentucky, 591 in Louisiana, 753 in Mississippi, 566 in Missouri and 442 in Tennessee. If you would like to view the Delta Development Highway System plan, go to http://www.dra.gov , click on “Programs To Advance The Delta” and then click on “Transportation.” I think you’ll be impressed with what we’ve proposed.

This plan represents the culmination of thousands of hours of work by those of us at the DRA and some of the region’s top transportation experts. We received input from transportation executives and local organizations in all eight states. Public meetings were held throughout the region last fall. Our consulting team consisted of Wilbur Smith Associates, the Michael Baker Corp. and Neel-Schaffer Inc. Staff members from the Federal Highway Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission provided additional assistance.

Our transportation activities this year have not focused solely on the Delta Development Highway System. When Congress passed a highway act in 2005, the DRA was directed to prepare an overall multimodal plan for the region. To meet this congressional mandate, we’ll assess the transportation assets in the 240 counties and parishes we cover — highways, bridges, railroads, airports, river ports, ocean ports and more. We next will assess the demands being put on the current assets. Once those assessments are completed, we’ll prepare a plan that hopefully will address the demands far into the future. Our board recently selected the professional contractors to help us prepare this plan, which we hope to release in 2008.

It’s important to look at much more than just highways as we seek to improve the Delta economy. For instance, freight rail systems are an integral part of the region’s economy. Particular attention will be paid to activities at the east-west gateways of Memphis and New Orleans. Commodity movements within the region will be identified. In addition to assessing our freight rail systems, we’ll identify passenger rail providers and service in the eight states. At the same time, the plan will identify all general, commercial and freight aviation facilities. In the area of waterways, we’ll review statewide waterway and port plans along with data collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This will ensure that all port and lock facilities are identified and their services are documented.

As we develop the multimodal plan, we’ll meet with the key stakeholders throughout the region while ensuring that our plan melds well with the various state plans. The movement of freight will be among the critical factors we examine. We’ll interview freight shippers who can assist us in identifying and addressing the needs in the areas of highways, water, rail, trucking and aviation. Finally, we’ll develop a program of proposed projects with a thorough economic analysis of those projects. I’m confident that enactment of the proposals we make will help us lower the cost of doing business, strengthen our economy, improve the nation’s productivity and make travel safer and more efficient. All America will benefit from what happens in the Delta.

We’re also working with business, government and civic leaders in Arkansas and Mississippi to promote the idea of a four-lane connection from Interstate 55 at Batesville, Miss., to Interstate 40 at Brinkley, Ark. This route would, in essence, serve as an additional loop south of Memphis, allowing traffic to avoid the congested Memphis metropolitan area while speeding up the flow of goods across the country. Less congestion in Memphis would also make it easier for the area to meet air quality standards. Such a corridor would require a new bridge over the Mississippi River at Helena-West Helena, Ark. This bridge would be south of the worst areas of the New Madrid earthquake zone, ensuring the continued east-west flow of goods should a major earthquake destroy the Interstate 40 and Interstate 55 bridges at Memphis.

The Delta already is one of most important warehousing, distribution and logistics hubs in the country. With a systematic planning process and the political will to enact the various proposals that come out of that process, we can ensure a brighter future for the Delta and a strengthened American economy.

Pete Johnson of Clarksdale, Miss., is the federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. He was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2001.


St. Rita’s owners can blame feds
Scope of testimony grows in ’05 deaths
Friday, July 13, 2007
By Paul Rioux
St. Bernard bureau

The owners of a St. Bernard Parish nursing home where 35 elderly residents drowned after Hurricane Katrina can present evidence at their negligent homicide trial next month that the government was responsible for the deaths, according to a state appellate court decision upholding a ruling by the trial judge.

But the First Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the judge’s ban on testimony and evidence about the fate of other local nursing homes, a double-edged sword for both sides in a case that has drawn national news media attention.

Prosecutors want to focus on the other three St. Bernard nursing homes, all of which were evacuated before Katrina made landfall in late August 2005 and had just one death among them.

Defense attorneys say they will seek to introduce evidence that the majority of nursing homes in the New Orleans area did not evacuate, including Lafon Nursing Home in eastern New Orleans, where 22 residents died. No charges have been filed in connection with the deaths at Lafon.

The ruling released Thursday was in response to a writ filed by prosecutors arguing that Judge Jerome Winsberg had erred in prohibiting evidence about what happened at other nursing homes while allowing the defense to blame the government for the tragedy.

Jim Cobb, an attorney for St. Rita’s owners Mabel and Salvador Mangano, who are facing 35 counts of negligent homicide, said he’s pleased with the ruling to permit testimony about third-party fault.

“It allows us to present evidence of who really was at fault for the deaths of the poor folks at St. Rita’s: the Army Corps of Engineers for the failed levees and a host of state and local officials who botched the evacuation,” he said. “It’s a critical part of our case.”

The state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Examining other homes

In a partial victory for the state, the appellate court overturned Winsberg’s blanket ban on evidence about other nursing homes, instructing him to consider the admissibility of such evidence on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling fell short of prosecutors’ request that Winsberg be ordered to allow testimony about evacuations at St. Bernard’s three other nursing homes.

“In total, 188 frail, elderly folks were evacuated, many by ambulance, with the loss of only one life because the owners and administrators heeded clear warnings of danger and honored their obligation and duty to care for those entrusted to them in spite of the difficulties and cost of doing so,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors argued it is impossible to assess whether the Manganos’ decision to not evacuate amounted to negligence without looking at what other nursing homes in the parish did.

“The whole theory of negligence presupposes some uniform standard of behavior,” they wrote.

Although defense attorneys have sought to bar comparisons between St. Rita’s and the other St. Bernard homes, Cobb said a broader comparison with homes in the region — not just in St. Bernard Parish — is more favorable to the Manganos.

He said figures compiled by the Louisiana Nursing Home Association indicate 36 of 57 nursing homes in the New Orleans area did not evacuate as Katrina approached.

“The truth is that most nursing homes did exactly what St. Rita’s did,” he said.

Cobb also said he will seek to introduce testimony about the little-publicized tragedy at Lafon Nursing Home run by the Sisters of the Holy Family. More than 100 elderly residents rode out the hurricane at the home on Chef Menteur Highway, and 22 died in the subsequent five days as help was slow to arrive.

Cobb has said it was improper for Attorney General Charles Foti to charge the Manganos but not the nuns at Lafon.

Trial to begin next month

The trial is slated to begin Aug. 13 in St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, where it was moved after Winsberg granted a defense motion for a change of venue.

Winsberg, a retired New Orleans judge, is presiding over the case because all St. Bernard judges recused themselves, most because they knew some of the St. Rita’s residents who died.

Katrina’s massive storm surge flooded the one-story nursing home near Poydras to the ceiling within 20 minutes, overwhelming the elderly residents, many of whom were confined to beds or wheelchairs.

The Manganos and staff members saved 26 residents, floating many of them out windows on mattresses. In addition to the negligent homicide charges, the couple is charged with 26 counts of cruelty to the infirm for the hardships endured by the survivors.

The couple had allegedly ignored a mandatory evacuation order from the parish and refused an offer by parish officials to bus residents to safety a day before the storm hit, authorities have said.

The Manganos, who are in their 60s, have maintained their innocence, saying through their attorneys that the nursing home had never flooded in 20 years and that they were worried some of the frail residents wouldn’t survive the ordeal of an evacuation. The couple also said they were never ordered to evacuate.

. . . . . . .

Paul Rioux can be reached at prioux@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3321.

Update: 7/29/07 Evacuation issues in North Carolina

Southeastern North Carolina from Project Disaster

If a major hurricane – a Category 4 or 5 – hit the region tomorrow, local emergency services wouldn’t be able to evacuate all of the medical facilities and people with special needs here.

“Potentially, we would have a shortfall of ambulances,” said Warren Lee, New Hanover County Emergency Services director.

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