Louisiana government hearing on yanking nursing home licenses won’t happen for a year

Nursing home owner Bob Dean appealed state decision to shutter facilities

By: - November 3, 2021 1:02 pm
Bob Dean Warehouse

The Louisiana Department of Health removed nearly 850 nursing home residents from this warehouse (pictured above) after nursing home owner Bob Dean transferred people there during Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

There will be no ruling on whether nursing homes owner Bob Dean will permanently lose his seven nursing home licenses for more than a year — and the dispute over Dean’s nursing homes ownership will likely drag on for much longer.  

Louisiana Division of Administrative Law Judge Karla Coreil and attorneys agreed that research and preparation — known as “discovery” in the legal world — for the hearing on Dean’s license revocation will take between a year and 18 months. The discovery phase has to be concluded before that hearing can take place. No hearing has been scheduled yet.

The judge and attorneys spoke during a conference call on Dean’s case Wednesday. It was a preliminary step in Dean’s appeal of the state’s decision to yank his nursing home licenses and cut off his access to Medicaid funding.

The Louisiana Department of Health shut down Dean’s nursing homes following Dean’s decision to evacuate almost 850 nursing home residents to a warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish ahead of Hurricane Ida.

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Health inspectors found the nursing home residents staying in squalid conditions at the warehouse. Their reports describe medically-fragile people being kept on air mattresses on the floor in soiled clothes and dirty sheets. The building had an overwhelming stench and the inspectors questioned whether the residents were being fed or tended to by staff on a regular basis. After going to the warehouse, numerous residents died or were hospitalized.

Nearly a week after the initial evacuation, health officials moved hundreds of residents from the facility to other nursing homes and hospitals where state officials thought they would receive better care. 

Dean will not be able to run nursing homes in Louisiana — he only owned the seven that were shut down — unless the health department’s decision to terminate his licenses is overturned. There’s also a cap on the number of nursing home licenses the state distributes — and they aren’t easily replaced. 

Lawyers said Wednesday they expect to conduct depositions of 30 to 40 people in connection with Dean’s licenses revocation as part of the discovery phase. The termination of his access to Medicaid funding will be handled as a separate matter, . 

Even if Dean were to retain his nursing home licenses, it would be nearly impossible to run a nursing home business without access to Medicaid. Medicaid funding makes up the bulk of most revenue of nursing home operations in Louisiana. 

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Dean’s appeal first goes to the Louisiana Division of Administrative Law, which handles complaints and appeals of state agency decisions. The state or Dean could have the case moved to state district court eventually, if either of them disagree with the Division of Administrative Law’s ruling. That means the case will likely take years to resolve. 

During the administrative law proceedings, Coreil and the attorneys also agreed to shield the names of Dean’s nursing home residents in documents and discussion by assigning them either a number or pseudonym. It’s an effort to retain the residents’ privacy if their condition at the warehouse and medical history need to be discussed in court proceedings.

Three administrative law judges — Coreil, Adaora Chukudebelu and Brock Avery — will oversee Dean’s appeal on the seven license revocations. Coreil will oversee the hearing on his Medicaid agreement by herself.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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