NEW ORLEANS — Two investigators with the State Attorney General’s office interviewed a nursing home patient Friday morning following a WWL-TV story on how the patient’s leg was amputated after a troubled evacuation from Hurricane Ida.
Lisa Renard, 62, nearly died after suffering from diabetes-related gangrene while stuck in a wheelchair for four days inside a leaky and poorly equipped warehouse where she was housed with 842 other patients. After being rescued by state health officials, Renard’s life was saved by the amputation of her left leg above the knee.
The AG’s office previously announced it is conducting an investigation into the care of the patients who were transferred from seven Southeast Louisiana nursing homes owned by Bob Dean Jr. to a warehouse in Independence also owned by Dean. The state has revoked the licenses of all seven of Dean’s facilities, determining that five patients died as a result of the evacuation and conditions at the warehouse.
Renard’s cousin, New Orleans Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell, said the investigators spent more than an hour Friday getting Renard’s account from when she first arrived at West Jefferson Health Care Center about a year ago through her evacuation ordeal.
“They asked about her treatment from when she stayed at the rehab center all the way up to the amputation,” Morrell said. “They were concerned about how someone with a visible medical problem didn’t get proper treatment.”
Also on Friday, Renard’s attorneys filed a lawsuit on her behalf against West Jefferson Health Care Center claiming neglect and improper medical treatment. The lawsuit claims that the loss of Renard’s left leg was the direct result of her treatment before, during and after the storm.
“The ‘warehouse’ that Lisa Renard was taken to in her extra-large wheelchair was not a nursing facility, did not meet the requirements of providing for nursing home patients, had improper bedding, if any, very few toilets, all augmented by portable toilets, with many patients having to relieve themselves in corners,” the lawsuit claims. “Besides the impoverished circumstances…(she had) constant pain in her remaining leg.”
In WWL-TV’s exclusive interview with Renard, she described having to relieve herself while confined to her wheelchair because the portable toilets couldn’t accommodate her. As her leg pain became intolerable, she said she tried to get the attention of medical staff, but was ignored.
Renard had been at West Jefferson Health Care Center undergoing rehab to use a prosthetic leg after having her right leg amputated in 2020. As Ida approached, she said patients were given almost no notice of the evacuation in order to call relatives to get them out.
Renard said she didn’t realize her remaining leg had been removed until she woke up in a recovery room at Baton Rouge General Hospital.
“I didn't know until I woke up after they had performed the surgery,” she said. “They took my leg off.”
Dean has been hit by at least 10 other lawsuits, from patients as well as employees.
The civil lawsuits are being defended by attorneys for Dean’s insurers. John McLindon, Dean’s criminal defense attorney, has appealed the state revocation of his licenses.
In the four-page appeal letter, McLindon wrote, “There was no cruelty or indifference to the welfare of any of the residents. The nursing facilities were in substantial compliance with the nursing facility licensing laws, rules, and regulations.”
In an interview with WWL-TV, McLindon said Dean’s evacuation plans had been approved by the state and, just ahead of the storm, the warehouse was inspected by Department of Health officials.
“We executed the plan flawlessly. Even LDH agrees with that,” McLindon said. “The only thing that changed is that the storm turned and went straight to the evacuation facility.”
Morrell said his cousin is simply seeking justice.
“She’s lucky she didn’t die, and she’s unlucky that she lost her leg,” Morrell said. “Obviously, her life is altered forever by what happened. She deserves justice. There must be accountability.”