Oak Park Health Center: Part 1

Imagine if you were living in a crummy, old house and someone built you a brand new home.  But, for months, you couldn't move in for reasons that made no sense to you. That is the situation for some 90 residents who live at a local nursing home.

Back in August 2005, they broke ground on a new nursing home to replace Oak Park Health center on first avenue. Residents like Bobby Judd were thrilled and looking forward to getting a beautiful new home. "We're just jumping up and down inside to get over here and to get a feel of the place and get us in a new home," said Judd in 2005 at the ground breaking.

Well, the brand new, state of the art facility on Oak Park Boulevard is built and has been ready for residents to move into since June. Yet, residents are still in the old facility, which is almost fifty years old and in constant need of repair. Judd can't believe it. "I think it's horrible. I think the State of Louisiana is abusing the elderly.

Center Administrator Deborah Cole says it all boils down to Louisiana politics: "Well, there are supposed to be some little issues about things being done on time. You know, the hurricane hit during the building. This could be your mom or your dad living in this place where there's a new one. This is one time where politics needs to be put aside." The two facilities are like night and day: old crowded common areas like the cafeteria compared to beautifully decorated and spacious areas at the new; more space for activities; rooms with new furniture and new tvs and the latest equipment for personal care and improved privacy.

Attorney Bill Treeby, who represents the owner, says the legislature has refused to lift a moratorium on new nursing homes.

Residents like Miss Ellen here can't wait to get into their new home; unfortunately at least a half dozen other residents, who so looked forward to their new residence, have already passed away. And Judd suspects time is running out for others. "You stop and think. If you had just a few years left in life, wouldn't you like to have a new house?" The owners could be subject to severe fines and penalties if they open without the state's blessing.

A spokesman for the state health department says the only way residents can move into the new nursing home is for the legislature to change the law on the moratorium.