Year or more before Dean nursing home license appeals tried

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Emergency personnel evacuate people at a mass shelter Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 in Independence, La. Multiple nursing home residents died after Hurricane Ida, but full details of their deaths are unknown because state health inspectors said Thursday that they were turned away from examining conditions at the facility to which they had been evacuated. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Lawyers for Louisiana and the man whose seven nursing homes were evacuated to a warehouse during Hurricane Ida said Wednesday that it will be at least a year before trial can start on an appeal of the nursing homes’ license revocations.

More than 840 nursing home residents were evacuated to the property also owned by Bob Dean Jr. Days after Ida’s Aug. 29 landfall, state inspectors said the warehouse was filthy and unsafe. The Health Department moved patients across the state. On Sept. 7, it revoked the nursing home licenses.

A Louisiana Department of Health attorney told a state administrative law judge Wednesday that he expects to take 30 to 40 sworn statements, including Dean’s, during the pretrial process called discovery.

“To do that and get documents exchanged — I’m kind of looking at a year to 18 months,” Juston “Jay” O’Brien told Administrative Law Judge Karla Coreil during a scheduling teleconference.

“I think a year is probably realistic. … I hate to admit it, but I think that’s probably right,” responded Dean’s lawyer, John McLindon.

He and department attorneys disagreed on scheduling Dean’s appeal of a related department decision to cancel the nursing homes’ provider agreements for Medicaid, which most nursing homes rely on to pay for patient care.

Since that decision was based on the revocation, its appeal should wait until the license decision is final, McLindon said.

A hearing on the Medicaid provider contracts could be held immediately, department attorney Sarah Aycock said. She and another department attorney said state law doesn’t require a final decision on licensing before a hearing about the provider contracts.

Coreil said she and two other judges from the Division of Administrative Law will consider the license revocation, while she will hear the Medicaid cancellation on her own.

“What if the three-judge panel holds revocation was wrong? … It seems like we’ve got to do that first, then go to the provider” issue, McLindon said.

“That was my impression as well,” Coreil said.

McLindon and Aycock agreed to discuss the matter out of court and report back to her.

Lawyers for both sides agreed to set up a system to shield the privacy of any individual patients who might be described in court or in documents. One way, the judge suggested, might be to assign hyphenated numbers, with the first number designating a nursing home and the second its individual residents.

As of Thursday, 42 of the 843 residents who were evacuated to the warehouse have died, but the number of deaths linked by coroners to the hurricane has remained at five, Health Department spokeswoman Mindy Faciane said in an email.

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