Nursing Home Evacuees In Limbo

9-28-05 - They fled Hurricane Rita and came to Bonham searching for higher ground, but a group of employees from a Jasper nursing home say their company left them high and dry.

Employees at the Jasper Nursing and Rehabilitation Center were told Friday morning that Rita was headed right for them. They packed up their 51 patients and boarded the buses to Bonham.

They had no idea that they were headed into another kind of storm. Nurse Patty Barthol volunteered to make the nine hour ride in traffic from Jasper to Bonham.

"We understood when we came that they had staff and supplies to take care of our patients," Barthol said. "Our duty was to ride the buses up with them."

The 51 Jasper patients were spread out across four nursing homes in North Texas including three in Bonham and one in Cooper. Barthol said the patients have been cared for, but the employees are a different story.

"They haven't even asked us, do you have money to get home? Do you have money to feed your staff while you're here. Do they care? Do they care about us? We got our patients here," Barthol said.

Barthol and several other Jasper employees said Daybreak Ventures did not provide housing or even money or meals when they arrived.

Their administrator charged almost $700 on her credit card to pay for hotel rooms and food.

Daybreak President David Byers has a very different account of what happened. He said Daybreak evacuated 14 long-term care centers along the Texas Gulf Coast, and although employees who volunteered to go with their residents were expected to stay with their patients, Daybreak is picking up the tab for the Jasper employees.

"They got to stay in a hotel," Byers said. "Not another employee in this company left the building their residents were in. They didn't want to."

Many of the Jasper employees, like Barthol, are packing up and heading home to see what's left of their lives, but their residents are staying behind.

The Jasper nursing home was damaged in the storm, a tree fell on the roof and the power is out. Daybreak said all of their other evacuations of more than 1,000 patients ran smoothly. They plan to investigate what happened in Bonham when the more pressing storm has passed.

There's no word on when or if the 51 Jasper residents will be able to return home.