As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, nursing homes are among the hardest hit. Even the most prepared facilities have struggled to mitigate the spread once the virus is inside. According to the New York Times, for-profit nursing homes seem to be struggling the most when it comes to caring for residents with COVID-19.
COVID-19 in For-Profit Nursing Homes
As of early May, it’s estimated that 20,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 since initial outbreaks in early 2020. Many of those deaths have happened in for-profit long-term care facilities. Facilities are struggling to manage the spread of the virus and, as a result, residents, employees, and family members are suffering.
It’s important to note that the pandemic has not been the primary cause of nursing home struggles. In fact, many facilities were overwhelmed prior to COVID-19. When the pandemic first began, the majority of the country’s nursing homes were already losing money. This was often the result of the inability to bring in new residents and poorly maintained facilities.
With decades of ownership by private equity and other private investment firms, many for-profit facilities were left with massive bills and small margins. Facilities began to focus more on finding new ways to charge residents while the quality of care declined.
At the Burbank Rehabilitation Center, a for-profit nursing home in Illinois, the records are highly inconsistent and show below-average staffing. On some days, payroll shows only one certified nursing assistant was available for every ten patients. On other days, there was only one for every 19 residents.
The Burbank facility, which has a one-star rating in the federal government’s five-star rating system for nursing home care, has had six residents die of COVID-19 and 41 others have fallen ill. In addition to the previous staffing issues, the spread of infection contributed to a lack of personal protective equipment—as staff were told to wear the same mask for up to two weeks.
Other facilities across the country are facing similar issues. As a result, residents and employees are contacting the virus. As family members are losing their loved ones, many are searching for answers and looking to hold facilities responsible for the spread of the virus and the lack of resources available to properly care for residents.
The Push for Broad Immunity
As nursing home residents continue to receive poor care during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely many families will want to come forward with lawsuits to seek compensation for their loved ones’ suffering. The nursing home industry, however, is pushing for broad immunity to stop future litigation.
Currently, 15 states have enacted laws or governors’ orders that explicitly or apparently provide nursing homes and long-term care facilities with some protection from lawsuits. At this time, Arkansas is not one of those 15 states. In New York state specifically, facilities are being afforded special protections from both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution.
Nursing home lobbyists believe facilities should not be held liable for events beyond their control—like shortages of protective equipment and testing, shifting directives from authorities, and sickness that’s reduced staffing numbers.
Resident advocates and lawyers, however, feel differently. According to AP News, problems like staffing shortages and infection control warrant legal liability—as litigation may be the last safety net to keep facilities accountable for their actions and inactions. If facilities had placed more focus on patient care and infection mitigation prior to the outbreaks, it’s possible lives could have been saved.
Seek Justice for Your Loved One
When it comes time to transfer your loved one’s care to a nursing home, you expect the facility to provide them with the care and resources they need to live comfortably, healthily, and happily. Unfortunately, too many nursing homes fail to provide high-quality care. As a result, residents may sustain serious injuries—ones that could even be fatal.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important now than ever that long-term care facilities provide the best care possible to residents. Abiding by CDC recommendations and guidelines, quarantining ill patients, properly sanitizing and sterilizing surfaces, providing the necessary personal protective equipment and testing, and ensuring ill staff members do not work is crucial during this time.
If your loved one has contracted COVID-19 or sustained other injuries in their nursing home and you believe their suffering could have been prevented, it’s important to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. As the legal landscape for COVID-19 lawsuits changes as the pandemic continues to spread, it’s imperative to learn if you have a case and start filing the necessary paperwork as soon as possible.
At McMath Woods, P.A., we believe negligent nursing homes should be held accountable for their actions. To learn more about your legal rights and options and whether filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit is an option for your family, contact us today.