Notorious Louisiana nursing home owner Bob Dean plans to wage a legal fight to restore the licenses of seven nursing homes the state wrested from him over the treatment of 843 residents he ordered evacuated and warehoused in the lead-up to Hurricane Ida, with deadly consequences.

But Dean gave up an eighth nursing home recently in quieter fashion, choosing to sell the place under pressure from state health officials after a yearslong stream of abuse and neglect complaints surged in 2019.

That’s when the situation turned grim for patients at Iberville Oaks Nursing and Rehab in Plaquemine, also known as Plaquemine Manor, according to Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office records and investigative reports from the Louisiana Department of Health.

Things began to unravel that June, starting with an argument that nearly came to blows as family members and staff sparred over the failure to change a resident’s diaper. Police said staff had to hold back a 72-year-old woman from striking a nurse, but a woman involved said the nurse tried to hit her.

A few weeks later, an Iberville Parish sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the nursing home after a patient called 911 at dawn, saying he’d thrown up in bed and couldn’t reach a nurse.

Standing against a wall outside the man’s room, a female staffer told the deputy “the scheduled nurse didn’t show up so there wasn’t one there,” a police report said. She then turned to the patient, “asking him why he called 911 and ‘wasted those people’s time.’”

Nurses often went absent at Iberville Oaks around that time — including four straight days the following week — and Dean had no plan for it, according to LDH reports. Nurses wouldn’t cover for their colleagues, leaving their patients with no one to administer medications.

“It was horrible,” said Bessie Granier, a former housekeeping and laundry supervisor at the nursing home. “I’ve seen people not fed, I’ve seen people not get their medicine. ... I lived with a broken heart because I’ve seen how they were neglected.”

'Immediate jeopardy'

It took nearly two weeks for Iberville Oaks to report to state health officials the alleged neglect of the man who called 911. It was part of a pattern of failing to investigate or file timely reports on allegations of abuse or neglect, inspectors noted.

That July, state health officials placed Iberville Oaks’ license in “immediate jeopardy,” following dozens of documented failures in patient care and reporting.

Dean, who had owned the home since 1988, recently unloaded the two-story, 120-bed facility from his portfolio of south Louisiana nursing homes, the remaining seven of which have all been shuttered by the LDH in the wake of the botched evacuation to a cramped warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish.

While nursing home residents, their family members, state regulators and legislators have professed shock at the conditions inside the warehouse and Dean’s decision to send them all there, red flags were everywhere at Iberville Oaks.

“If people would have took me seriously from the get-go and investigated what I was saying, we could have saved some lives,” said Granier, who became a whistleblower for the facility, frequently alerting LDH and local media after she said Dean dismissed her complaints.

Granier has a lawsuit pending against the nursing home, alleging that leadership demoted her and cut her $12-an-hour pay after she called attention to neglect.

It’s just one of a raft of suits Dean now faces, thanks to the warehouse debacle. At least 15 nursing home residents evacuated to the warehouse have since died, though so far only five of those have been classified as “storm related.” Had Dean not sold the home, more than 100 residents from Iberville Oaks might also have landed in the warehouse.

An LDH spokesperson said Dean’s sale of the Plaquemine home came after the department threatened to revoke its license. Agency officials required “the provider to meet in person in 2019 to discuss their potential cyclical noncompliance, our concerns and what needed to be done to address those concerns,” said spokesperson Aly Neel. Dean was required to submit a plan to correct the problems.

“License revocation was on the table and a settlement agreement was discussed, but the agreement was never entered and no revocation action was taken because the owner stated his intention to sell the facility,” Neel said.

But while the discussion happened in 2019, Iberville Parish assessor’s records indicate that Dean’s sale of the facility was not finalized until February 2021.

The brouhaha in Plaquemine previewed Dean’s willingness to retaliate against those who question his practices — a trait he displayed last month in a barrage of threatening, incoherent text messages to LDH officials as they tried to assess and evacuate the warehouse.

In April, Dean sued Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi, alleging the sheriff unfairly targeted his nursing home compared to another nursing home in town that also had complaints. He also alleged that the sheriff made "reckless and injurious public statements" against him in 2019 television interviews. 

No criminal charges were ever filed from an investigation that Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office pursued, according to Dean’s lawsuit, which claims the sheriff ginned up alarming press on Iberville Oaks to help a political supporter who ran another nursing home in town.

But after the bad press and a directive from LDH to settle or risk losing his license, Dean took an escape route: he sold the nursing home. Dean claims he received “a price substantially lower than its actual value as well as substantial loss of profits” because of the allegations surrounding it.

"The pleadings accurately reflect the position of Plaquemine Manor," said attorney Stephen Gele, who represents Dean in the lawsuit.

Investigations ramp up 

The problems at Iberville Oaks reached a fever pitch in 2019.

Early that year, inspectors documented a handful of complaints: Nobody notified a physician about a resident’s painful abscess, nobody followed up when a resident’s daughter complained that nobody answered her bell, staff were inserting catheters incorrectly and food was not being kept at the correct temperature.

Granier, whose aunt lived at the nursing home, became concerned one morning in May 2019 when none of the residents had been removed from their beds and fed. She said that when she reported it to nursing staff, “one of the nurses threatened to hit her,” which she later reported to police and LDH.

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Granier called LDH again on June 3, 2019, asking them to inspect the nursing home. Her supervisors told her that they would fire her if she contacted the state again, according to her lawsuit. Attorney Jerry Stovall Jr., who represents the nursing home in her lawsuit, did not return messages for this story.

LDH inspectors wrote up a host of violations on June 19. They found the nursing home failed to develop proper abuse and neglect policies, after a resident’s relative reported that an assistant nursing director was harassing her cousin — a nursing home resident — and threatening to send her to jail. Administrators told inspectors that they did not fully investigate the allegation.

Another woman called police on June 29, saying her mother was admitted to the nursing home at 4:30 p.m. but that nobody had come to check on her. After her mother did not receive dinner or breakfast, she started blowing a whistle to get attention from nurses. Instead, they joked about it, ignored her and would not dispense her medications, according to the police report.

Iberville Oaks nearly lost its license by the end of June. Regulators placed it in “immediate jeopardy” after a nurse clocked out, leaving two units without assigned nurses on June 24. Residents “missed scheduled doses of insulin, antihypertensive medication, pain medications, medication prescribed to prevent seizures, blood clots and heart attacks,” inspection reports say.

An incontinent resident told inspectors that she was “left in the same pair of briefs for a complete 8-hour shift on several different occasions.” A nurse told inspectors that a resident’s family reported a staffer being verbally abusive, prompting the resident to check himself out of the nursing home.

Iberville Oaks’ administrators fought to get their license back. They agreed that residents who missed their medications would be medically evaluated, that they would conduct in-service training and create a system for nurse staff coverage if someone didn’t show up. They also agreed to manage daily staffing and monitor compliance. In return, the home was taken off “immediate jeopardy.”

Yet complaints continued to roll in, even after a series of unflattering local TV news reports that summer.

Michael Brown called the Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 16 after repeatedly complaining that staff were allowing his mother to sit for hours in her own feces, saying he’d had to drive across Baton Rouge to get someone to help.

Diana Brown, 62, had entered Iberville Oaks early that month, paralyzed down her right side from cancer that had spread to her brain, he said. She couldn’t walk.

“It was just one fiasco after another,” Michael Brown said.

The family pulled their mother from Iberville Oaks after little more than a month, following a second fall there. Angie Brown said her mother was left on the toilet so long “she was going numb.” Then she hit her head on a grab handle and fell when trying to get up.

“That’s what put her in the hospital again,” Angie Brown said.

Diana Brown died the following January at another nursing home in Zachary. Angie Brown said Friday that she wasn’t aware that the owner of Iberville Oaks was the same man now in legal hot water over the Ida evacuation.

“I’m glad my mom passed away when she did. If she was stuck in that (warehouse) ... we wouldn’t have let it happen.”

Many family members said officials from Dean’s nursing homes never told them where their loved ones were being taken for Hurricane Ida, or that they were being evacuated at all.

Reports of neglect fall on deaf ears

Though Dean ultimately sold Iberville Oaks after the heavy scrutiny he faced in 2019, inspection reports and lawsuits show that problems at the facility had been mounting for years.

In 2018, after a resident “sustained a fall with head involvement,” administrators failed to immediately notify a physician or relatives, inspectors documented. In another instance, nursing home staff failed “to ensure a facility staff member accompanied a cognitively impaired resident to a physician appointment.” Nobody was there to pick her up, nor could she remember even going to see the doctor.

In 2017, inspectors found that the nursing home’s lack of attention to pressure sores “resulted in actual harm,” when one resident developed two worst-stage pressure ulcers, often a sign of neglect. The resident also developed four less severe pressure sores.

“What’s going on with these elderly people started way before I got there,” said Granier, who worked at the home from 2017 to 2019. “I just started bringing it to light.”

Iberville Oaks had a particularly alarming series of inspection reports in 2016. A resident's family member told inspectors that a staff member threw the resident into their bed and told them not to bother her anymore. Administrators did not follow up on the report of abuse.

Another resident told inspectors that she saw a staff member scream at her roommate "to get her p---y *** up" and then pushed her roommate onto the toilet. She said her roommate asked the same staffer to brush her hair and she responded to "shut her a** up". The resident on the receiving end of the abuse — which inspectors found credible — told inspectors that she “did not think anyone would believe how bad she treats me.”

But when inspectors interviewed the home’s administrator, he “stated he did not feel like these were allegations of abuse and would not have provided additional supervision, he felt as if these were allegations of [the residents] not liking [the staff member’s] personality.”

Dean appears to have sold the nursing home to Landmark, a company that owns nursing homes across the state, early this year. The first Sheriff’s Office response under the new ownership was in March.

The pace of complaints and violations from inspectors has slowed down since 2019. Inspectors found few problems during their 2020 visits to the facility, noting in most reports that infection-control practices for the coronavirus were being followed.

On Aug. 26, the day before Dean ordered his seven remaining nursing homes to clear out to the warehouse in Independence, inspectors recertified Landmark to operate the Plaquemine nursing home, finding the company was in compliance with state requirements for long term care facilities. Just over a week later, officials revoked Dean’s licenses for the seven he still owns.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the claims in Bob Dean’s lawsuit against Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi.

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