NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Mayor Latoya Cantrell and other city leaders strongly rejected the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ assertion that the City– and not the Archdiocese– was responsible for ensuring that elderly residents in senior living facilities were safe when the power went out after Hurricane Ida.
The Archdiocese owns six of the facilities where residents were deemed by the New Orleans Health Department to be in “imminent danger” after the storm. Three of the five deaths that were discovered by a Health Department “strike team” occurred in Archdiocese facilities.
But in an emailed statement to WGNO-TV, the Archdiocese said the deaths– and the forced closure of its facilities by the Health department– was the result of the city’s neglect in the critical hours and days when elderly residents languished in facilities without power.
In a news conference on Monday (Sept. 6), city leaders said the opposite was true.
“We’re gonna call it what it is,” said Mayor Cantrell, “It is negligence, and it is not on the backs of the City of New Orleans.”
And the Mayor took her criticism of the Archdiocese– and of the owners of the other privately-managed facilities– a step further.
Those facilities typically receive government subsidies for their care of elderly residents, and the Mayor argued that those facilities have a financial obligation to ensure that residents are safe.
“I think accountability needs to be where it is — on these institutions, the Diocese, whoever,” the Mayor said in the news conference, “This isn’t free. They’re getting public resources to provide resources.”
Two of the Archdiocese properties — the Annunciation Inn in the 7th Ward and the Christopher Inn in the Marigny, are in Councilwoman Kristin Palmer’s district. Palmer says the managers of some of the facilities under investigation have claimed that the residents are responsible for their own safety.
“They hide under this loophole of “independent living” (facilities), said Palmer at the news conference.
“They’re like, ‘Whoa, whoa whoa! It’s not (the owners’) responsibility, it’s independent living.’ But it’s not independent living,” said Palmer, “if the power goes out and you’re in a wheelchair on the 4th floor.”