With over 37,600 deaths, nursing home fatalities now account for nearly 40% of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., and in many states they account for over 50% of related deaths, shining a negative light on a compromised standard of healthcare for aging Americans.  In North Dakota there were 478 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in long term care facilities and 54 deaths in total across the state.  Staffing shortages and infection control violations have been longstanding problems in the nursing home industry and are direct violations of residential rights under Federal law.

Responsibility to residents.

After the confirmation of COVID-19 in the United States, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and the Centers for Disease Control outlined specific protocols to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection in nursing homes and long term care facilities.  If providers did not follow mandated protocols, there may be circumstances when they could be held responsible for negative health outcomes, or death due to negligence. Facilities are responsible to keep residents safe from harm, and attend to their health, supported by measures outlined in state and local guidelines.  Under Federal Regulation 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h), they must provide an environment free of hazards with ample supervision and adequate medical treatment to uphold the current medical standards of care.

Reporting.

During these times of limited family visitation, limited presence of state ombudsmen and licensing agencies, it is very important that abuse, intentional negligence, or unintentional negligence are monitored in other ways.  Since deviations from upholding the standard of care afforded to the nursing home population do occur and “eyes on” opportunities have been scarce, while routine inspections have been halted, it is imperative that residents keep in touch with loved ones so they can report on their living situations  As many as 3 million infections occur in skilled nursing facilities every year, killing 380,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and COVID-19 is far more aggressive, so timely screening and isolation is crucial.

Disease spread.

If negative resident health outcomes, or death occurred due to deviations from isolation protocols caused by staff shortages, or mismanagement, responsibility may fall onto a facility.  An attorney who specializes in nursing home law may be able to assist with necessary actions against negligence.

Negligence.

If a loved one is injured, or death is caused by caregiver acts of negligence during COVID-19 treatment that may have exacerbated existing health conditions, an investigation should occur to make certain a resident’s rights were not violated and may lead to a wrongful death action.

Sources.

Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987

https://time.com/5835228/nursing-homes-legal-immunity-coronavirus/

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