Nursing Homes Face Heightened Risks from the Coronavirus
Most people already know that the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 disproportionately affects seniors and those suffering from chronic illnesses. What many people don’t realize is that nursing homes have long been unprepared for an infectious pandemic. Between staffing shortages, pervasive negligence, and a lack of basic resources, many nursing homes have a difficult time avoiding even preventable “never events” such as bed sores and sepsis – and this lack of preparedness has caused COVID-19 infection rates to skyrocket at nursing homes across the country.
As of April 29th, more than 1 in 6 nursing home facilities have reported at least one confirmed COVID-19 infection among staff or residents. This is more than double the number reported in previous weeks, showing that there has been an exponential rise in cases over time. Nursing home residents have been hit particularly hard in the East and Southeast of the country, with infections now reported at a majority of the facilities in Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
How Can Nursing Homes Prepare for COVID-19?
With the pandemic spreading so rapidly over the last two months, it may seem as though nursing home facilities are powerless to prevent COVID-19 illness and death among residents. However, this is far from the case: Like all institutions, nursing homes do have the ability to prepare for COVID-19 infection and enforce proper social distancing and hygiene at their facilities.
Here are some of the most important ways that nursing homes can prepare for the virus:
- Appointing an internal “task force” for COVID-19. By designating a team of COVID-19 specialists within the facility, nursing homes can maximize their preparedness. This team should be in charge of distributing educational and training materials among staff, enforcing social distancing rules, providing nursing home residents with public health resources, preparing supplies and equipment, and reporting any issues to management.
- Organizing supplies and equipment. While the internal task force should share some responsibility for cataloguing and requesting supplies, nursing home management should actively participate in this process as well. From personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks to more comprehensive medical equipment, it’s imperative for nursing home staff to stock up on supplies – and negotiate for more resources if needed.
- Making sanitation easy for residents and staff. Hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves should be readily available for everyone who needs them, and there should be hand-washing stations placed throughout the facility. It’s also important for all of the sinks to be well-stocked with soap and paper towels and for trash bins to be placed near the exits of each resident’s room or bathroom. This will make it easier for everyone to stay hygienic and quickly dispose of unwanted materials.
- Creating a system to identify sick residents. In addition to gathering supplies, nursing homes should immediately create a process to identify, isolate, and care for any residents who fall ill with COVID-19. By quickly identifying new cases and reporting them to the right public health authorities, nursing homes will have a better chance at fending off the virus from the start.
- Build an internal communication plan. Every resident should have multiple contacts to call when they begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19, and it’s also important for the facility to notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within 72 hours of a confirmed COVID-19 case. That will require a robust communication plan from facility staff.
Your Legal Advocates During the Crisis
At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we sincerely hope that all nursing home residents and staff members are able to stay healthy and safe through the pandemic. As nursing home abuse attorneys, however, we also know that many of these facilities already choose not to follow federal and state guidelines regarding their resident’s health, and that in some cases, this negligence may lead to serious injuries, illnesses, and deaths. If your loved one has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, it’s our goal to help you seek justice for your losses, applying over 100 years of combined legal experience to your claim.
For more information on how our Los Angeles attorneys can help with your nursing home claim, contact us at (866) 634-4525. We are still available during the crisis and can represent clients in California and nationwide.