Nursing Homes Face High Death Rates for COVID-19
Nursing homes throughout the Country have had mixed results in addressing the Covid-19 virus. Some have contained the virus and have experienced no deaths, while others have permitted a majority of their residents to be infected with the virus. Mortality rates are disturbingly high already.
State Surveyors are visiting most nursing homes to assess their compliance with state and federal regulations relative to infection control. The N.Y. Times has reported that based on initial reports, high death rates have been attributed to the staff spreading the virus to residents because they had little or no protective equipment. The New York times reported one facility in N.J, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, was chronically short of staff and masks, with residents crowded three to a room.
Skilled nursing facilities are no stranger to infectious disease. They routinely handle highly infectious patients. In terms of standard of care, nursing homes must maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection.” 42 C.F.R. § 65. They must establish an infection control program which investigates, controls and prevents infections in the facility. Id. Such a program may include the isolation of residents. The facility must prohibit an employee with communicable disease from direct contact with residents or their food, if direct contact will transmit the disease. CDC guidelines set forth additional standards that facilities were required to follow, including providing families with accurate information on exposures within the facility.
Milly Silva, executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents health care workers, said in a statement that much of the fault for the rapid spread of coronavirus in LTCs across the state lies not with workers, but rather with some facility operators. “In light of continued obfuscation by some nursing homeowners and delays in informing family members and workers about positive cases, the Murphy administration has taken strong, decisive action,” Silva said. The union remains concerned about a “significant under-counting of resident deaths,” Silva said, specifically of those who passed away without being tested or who died after being taken to a hospital.
In Virginia, one Richmond nursing home, the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, reported 45 deaths in the facility, surpassing the record of 43 deaths, set by Life Care Center in suburban Seattle. Studies have shown that nursing homes that rely upon Medicaid have fewer nurses and staff per patient than average. By the time tests were conducted on residents at the Canterbury, reportedly about two weeks after the first confirmed cases, more than half of the residents infected with Covid-19 were not showing symptoms. Relatives of the Canterbury described a facility with long running quality of care problems and thought that there was more that could be done to prevent the spread.
Given that nursing homes are usually the weak link in our healthcare chain, it does not surprise me that many of their residents are being exposed to the virus, explain malpractice attorney Jeffrey J. Downey. It also makes sense that facilities with lower staffing levels would be at higher risk, especially when they are not testing their staff and are moving them back and forth between different facilities. I have already received calls from family members complaining that they were never told their loved ones were exposed to the virus. A facility is obligated to provide accurate information about their in-house infections, so residents and their family members can make informed decisions about whether to remove a loved one. If a facility refuses to supply this information, they should be reported to the state Department of Health.
It is no coincidence that facilities which have diligently followed infection protocols have far fewer infections and no deaths. When we review the inspection reports, we will have a clear picture as to which nursing facilities complied with proper infection control practices and which facilities failed to protect their patient populations.
If you have questions about Covid-19 exposures in long term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities or assisted living homes, call the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey for a free consultation.
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