A nurse told CNN that the facility administrator “told us we were going to a medical facility. They told us we were going to sister facilities outside of town; they never saw us at any time. said they were going to a warehouse “.
The nurse recalled that the administrator described the warehouse as “an independent medical facility”.
CNN does not name the nurse or her facility because she was not authorized to speak to the media and feared losing her job.
“We were put in a situation that we didn’t know about, but we managed it,” the nurse said.
A business licensing review by CNN found that Baton Rouge’s Bob Dean Jr. is listed as an executive for all seven nursing facilities, in addition to the warehouse.
Asked about the warehouse by CNN affiliate WVUE, Dean said that “we’ve only had five deaths in six days and normally with 850 people you’ll have two a day so we’ve taken very good care of them. people. ”
Seven nursing home residents have died, state health officials say.
CNN reached out to Dean and the facilities for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The anonymous nurse said she was informed early in the morning of August 27 that staff and patients were evacuating before Ida. Ambulances were used for bedridden patients, “elevators” for wheelchair patients, and small buses were used to transport fully mobile patients.
Henderson said he was told their patients were discharging on the evening of August 27.
When the anonymous nurse boarded the transport, she was told they were heading to a “sister facility” outside of town. Henderson also said her supervisor told her she would go to another facility.
Residents housed in leaking and flooded buildings and “had to squeeze” into a large warehouse
Instead of sister facilities, patients were dropped off at a warehouse in Independence, the two nurses said. While the patients stayed there, the healthcare workers were accommodated at a campground about 20 miles away, nurses said.
The two nurses said patients were initially divided between the large warehouse and two smaller buildings on site.
However, when the anonymous nurse returned to one of the smaller buildings on August 28, the rain from Ida’s outer bands had arrived. While doing their rounds, the anonymous nurse said they and other health workers discovered that a number of patients had been wet from the rain overnight. This caused them to move the residents to the warehouse.
“Which was crazy because it was already full,” the nurse said. “So they must have sneaked in.”
Henderson confirmed the account of the anonymous nurse, saying she arrived as patients were moved due to a leaking roof.
Ida’s winds and rains swept through Louisiana that Sunday, causing widespread flooding and extensive damage. Parts of the warehouse property were affected by the flooding, the unidentified nurse said.
At one point, water began to seep into a smaller building on site where some patients were being kept, the nurse said.
The nurse and others rushed into the building and the water was almost knee-deep and began to evacuate about 60 patients.
Nurses quickly removed patients who use wheelchairs, but had to use air mattresses stacked on top of each other to evacuate bedridden patients, the anonymous nurse said.
Once they evacuated the patients, that’s when the lights went out, recalls the nurse.
Air conditioning and lighting, or oxygen
Over the next few days, the nurse said that although a large generator was running continuously, it would switch between the lights and the air conditioning and the wall outlet. The nurse said the warehouse, which had few windows, was frequently dark as a result.
Henderson described the warehouse as hot and humid. There were initially electric fans inside the warehouse, she said, but they were later removed as they were seen as the reason the circuit breakers tripped repeatedly.
The flickering blackouts also meant nurses had to pay close attention to what was receiving electricity at all times. When the lights and air conditioning were on, the anonymous nurse said she finally realized that meant the electricity to the wall outlet was turned off. No one had informed them that would be the case, the nurse said.
It almost turned out to be fatal, the nurse said, as a number of their patients needed concentrated oxygen to stay alive. The only way their section members realized this, the nurse said, was when they noticed patients’ oxygen saturation levels were dropping during their rounds.
“If you hadn’t been doing rounds, you wouldn’t have known it,” the nurse said.
If healthcare workers had not realized this, the nurse said the patients’ oxygen levels would have started to desaturate and that would likely have resulted in death. When they found out, the nurse said workers replaced them with oxygen tanks.
The nurse told CNN that supplies, including oxygen tanks, had run out or were completely depleted during the storm. At one point, the nurse said some patients were taken to hospital because they ran out of oxygen cylinders.
Henderson said she was aware some patients had been evacuated due to the depletion of the oxygen tank.
Henderson said there was a lack of food and water throughout the ordeal.
“They had small portions of food,” she said.
Hundreds of residents spent most of their time in the warehouse on air mattresses and cots, tightly crammed onto the floor of the building, the two nurses said.
Because they were in a warehouse and not in a medical facility, many patients simply had to eat in the position they were in on their beds. Some patients, said Henderson, had to eat lying on their backs or flat on their sides.
“Which was dangerous because they could have choked,” she said.
Staff slept in cars after not being able to get to accommodation
Having healthcare workers housed 20 miles away also proved dangerous, the nurse said. Colleagues sometimes spent hours trying to cross roads that were flooded or blocked by trees, the unidentified nurse said.
Some, the nurse said, were even trapped in cars for hours at the height of the storm. This, and because the housing also lost power and water, led many healthcare workers to sleep in their cars outside the warehouse.
“It was unbearable and unnecessary,” said the nurse. “We didn’t leave after the storm, we were too afraid of getting lost.”
Henderson said she was only able to get the hotel room for two nights. After that, like many other healthcare workers, she slept in her vehicle.
Despite promises that they would be fed, the nurse also said healthcare workers needed to find their own food. Sometimes they even had to find food for the patients, paying for it with their own money.