The Department of Health has been working with nursing homes in the most vulnerable areas of the state to ensure they will be ready to respond if another emergency like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita occurs.

Nursing homes in 22 parishes -- Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Vermilion -- were required to submit their emergency preparedness plans to LDH for review by Aug. 1, 2006, per Act 540, which passed in the 2006 Session.

However, under Act 540, the rules for restructuring emergency preparedness plans for these facilities do not take effect until April 2007. Therefore, LDH enacted a set of emergency rules in June 2006 for nursing homes so they could prepare for this hurricane season.

During the month of June, LDH and the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a review of emergency preparedness plans for 72 nursing homes in Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, LaFourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes.

"This review of nursing home emergency evacuation plans demonstrates our strong commitment to the safety of some of Louisiana's most vulnerable citizens, our elderly. We fully expect all facilities charged with citizen safety to meet their responsibilities and I am pleased to see that months of hard work, oversight and dialogue have led to full compliance today," said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

LDH received copies of these homes' plans and sent letters to the homes in July outlining any weaknesses or non-compliance in their evacuation plans, and requiring corrective actions where necessary. All of the 72 homes surveyed have emergency plans that comply with the licensing regulations and have submitted the necessary documentation verifying evacuation plans and transportation contracts.

"Our priority is reviewing the plans of homes most at risk," said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. "We have begun working with the nursing homes in these areas to get them thinking about changes that need to be made in their plans and how to better determine when to evacuate if a storm is approaching."