During the best of times, many U.S. nursing homes are understaffed and underfunded, while many employees are inadequately trained. Consequently, thousands of patients die each year from infection, neglect and abuse. During the worst of times, like now, far too many nursing homes lack the staff, training, equipment and structure needed to prevent a catastrophic number of deaths. Indeed, on April 17th, the Washington Post reported that forty percent of the more than 650 U.S. nursing homes with publicly reported cases of coronavirus have been cited more than once by inspectors during the last several years for violating federal safety standards intended to prevent the spread of infections. As a result, these facilities have become Covid-19 breeding grounds and death traps.
We know that elderly people with underlying conditions are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus disease and that the virus spreads more readily in a closed environment, where staff go from room to room and visitors come and go. However, in addition to these known factors, problems endemic to nursing homes, including negligent oversight, lack of trained staff, and lack of safety equipment, have also given rise to the tsunami of deaths at these facilities.
Presently, we know that more than 36,500 U.S. nursing home residents and employees have contracted the deadly disease and at least 7,000 have died. Those who have suddenly lost their loved ones must be grieving deeply while wondering how they were cared for while in the nursing home and why the virus continued to spread there after its dangers were known.
Nursing Home Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Covid-19
An aging population, changes in health insurance policies and cuts in hospital budgets have meant that more vulnerable patients are now being treated at nursing homes than ever before. While the nursing home industry has expanded to accommodate this increase, many facilities are overcrowded and understaffed. Their managers often lack the skills to implement and maintain good patient care and safety procedures, and their employees are often minimally trained and poorly paid.
Unfortunately, these problems have been amplified during the current health crisis. Tests for the virus and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been in short supply in nursing homes, and many facilities have been lax in requiring workers and residents to wear masks. Worse yet, some nursing homes have waited until residents are sick with Covid-19 before keeping them away from others, even though they had known contact with people who had been infected. In addition, their staff often have other jobs and home environments that put them at high risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued guidelines for nursing homes, including restriction of all visitors, cancellation of all group activities, closure of all dining rooms, and screening of all residents and staff for Covid-19 symptoms. State health departments have also provided guidance on testing, infection control, environmental cleaning, staffing, visitation, admission, readmission and outreach to residents and families. However, families of nursing home residents have reported that the safety measures have not been fully implemented, and they fear for their loved one’s health and safety.
What’s even worse for many families is the lack of contact with their loved ones and lack of information from nursing homes. They struggle to stay in touch with their family member and find out how they are feeling and how they are being cared for. Many are not being told when their family member has Covid-19 symptoms and only find out about their loved one’s life threatening infection after they have already died.
Experienced Florida Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Want to Help
The skilled trial attorneys of Boyers Law Group have over 20 years of experience representing clients for serious injuries and deaths from nursing home negligence and helping them get answers to their questions. If your family member has been injured due to negligence at a nursing home, please get the legal help you need to hold the responsible parties accountable by calling us at 800.545.9100 or submitting the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website.
Stockman, F., Richtel, M. Ivory, D., & Smith, M. (2020, April 17). ‘They’re death pits’: Virus claims at least 7,000 lives in U.S. nursing homes. New York Times.
40 Percent of Coronavirus-Infected Nursing Homes Have Violated Infection-Control Rules. The Washington Post