By now, every American has been affected in some way by the novel coronavirus, also known as Sars CoV-2, or COVID-19. While no one is immune to this deadly disease, our senior citizens are among the most vulnerable, with those aged 65 or older accounting for 8 out of 10 deaths from COVID-19.
Currently, our nation’s nursing homes are home to over one million seniors, so it’s no wonder that they have been called “ground-zero” for COVID-19. But deadly outbreaks at these facilities are not an inevitability.
When an outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home occurs, it can be due to negligence on the part of the facility or staff members. If you suspect negligence may be responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak at the nursing home where your loved one resides, contact the skilled attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt without delay.
When Is a Nursing Home COVID-19 Outbreak Linked with Negligence?
In the past year, our lawyers have investigated COVID-19-related nursing home cases throughout the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York region. Together this area has comprised one of the hardest-hit regions in the entire United States. Nursing homes have absorbed a disproportionate amount of the devastation, accounting for 39 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationally.
The harm was far greater in Pennsylvania nursing homes, with 69 percent of all deaths in the state tied to nursing homes throughout the early stages of the pandemic.
Furthermore, investigations have suggested that many of these deaths were preventable. If you or your loved one has suffered from a COVID-19-related nursing home injury, there may be something you can do to achieve a measure of justice.
Contact us today for the following COVID-19-related issues:
Defective Safety Products: Nursing home residents and staff rely on safety precautions to mitigate COVID-19 risks. When these products fail, it can lead to catastrophic results.
Local Nursing Home Outbreaks: The high incidence of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes isn’t an inevitability, it’s a warning. When a nursing home fails to protect its residents, it may be responsible for the harm that they suffer.
Long-Term Side Effects: Surviving COVID-19 isn’t as simple as recovering from the virus. Neurological complications have been shown to raise patients’ risk of dying by as much as 38 percent; abnormalities in the heart have been found in up to 78 percent of recovered COVID-19 patients.
Nursing Home Neglect: The CDC has found a correlation between overall nursing home quality and the rate of COVID-19 death. Chronic issues like understaffing and poor safety protocols may constitute negligence in such cases.
Veterans’ Center Outbreaks: The Southeastern Veterans Center in Spring City, Chester County Pennsylvania was at the center of one of the earlier long-term care catastrophes. Failure to take appropriate precautions and use of unproven treatments resulted in the deaths of 42 patients in the Spring of 2020.
What Causes COVID-19 Outbreaks in Nursing Homes?
By now, most of us are familiar with the common symptoms of COVID-19, which include:
- Fever or chills
- Cough/shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
What we continue to learn about almost daily is how this disease is spread. We know that the disease is primarily spread via person-to-person contact. This could mean that the virus is spread either through large droplets that we expel through talking, sneezing, or coughing or by aerosolized particles that hang around in the air for an undetermined amount of time. What is most troubling is that the virus can be spread by asymptomatic individuals – people who do not feel, look, or act sick in any way.
Much like the flu, the virus can also live on surfaces for up to 5 days depending on the material. Surfaces like a dining room table or doorknob that are not regularly or properly cleaned can spread the virus to others in the facility.
Lack of Infectious Disease Control in Nursing Homes
Long before the current crises, nursing homes were already struggling to control outbreaks of infectious diseases within their walls. In fact, 75 percent of nursing homes nationwide have received a citation in the last three years for failing to properly control and monitor infections.
In Pennsylvania, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center was recently raided by the FBI in connection to a fatal outbreak of COVID-19 where over 400 residents and staff members tested positive and 73 people died. This same facility was inspected in the fall of 2019 and found to have residents living in filthy conditions, without enough trained nurses on staff or proper facilities for handwashing. Inspectors at the time warned that these conditions could lead to the spread of diseases, but despite being marked deficient over 60 times and fined $68,000 since 2016, Brighton was still continuing to operate.
Nursing homes, like Brighton, should have addressed issues in controlling the spread of infectious diseases years ago. The outbreak of a pandemic merely reveals long-standing problems with how these facilities are allowed to operate.
What Guidelines Should Nursing Homes Be Following?
There are clear guidelines to prevent the spread of a disease like the coronavirus in a residential setting. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has offered guidance for nursing homes including:
- Symptom screening
- Hand washing
- Appropriate use of PPE
- Separate staffing for COVID-19 patients
Controlling the spread of infections in these facilities ultimately comes down to one important factor: time. When nursing homes are short-staffed, the employees who work there are often forced to cut corners, causing them to fall short of the guidelines offered above.
What Does Nursing Home Negligence Look Like?
During this pandemic, nursing home negligence has done quantifiable harm to too many people. Nursing homes have a duty to provide and enforce the following safety measures and protocols:
- Supply sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and require their use
- Put social distancing guidelines and measures in place
- Implement COVID-19 screening (such as symptom and temperature checks) for every resident, staff member and visitor to the facility
- Limit visitor access
- Quarantine those who test positive or come into contact with COVID-19
- Transport COVID-19 patients to a hospital for more extensive treatment when necessary
- Designate specific staff members to attend to COVID-19 patients
- Notify family members about a resident’s COVID-19 infection
When to Contact a Skilled Coronavirus Outbreak in Nursing Homes Lawyer
The coronavirus has been a significant challenge to all of us. If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you may have experienced feelings of anxiety, amplified by the fact that many homes have not allowed outside visitors to see their relatives. It is easy to feel helpless in this situation, but know there are steps you can take. If your loved one reports something suspicious in their elder care facility, having a skilled lawyer contact them can make the processes much easier for everyone involved.
If you suspect that a nursing home has been negligent in its efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, you will have a lot of questions. Don’t feel like you need to answer them on your own. The attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt will help you investigate the facility, and help put a stop to any harmful practices that are occurring. Contact us today by filling out our form or calling 1-866-869-5318.