Did you know that 1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths were residents of nursing homes? That’s more than 30,000 deaths! This news got me thinking about my partner, Joe Landy’s, recent article. Joe handles a good number of nursing home abuse cases and is widely regarded as one of the best trial lawyers in Florida. In his article, he wrote about the tragic events which occurred at a nursing home in New Jersey. Police acting on an anonymous tip found 57 residents dead at that facility. In Florida, 22 residents died at one nursing home, and at another, 74 residents and staff members tested positive! The news is replete with other heartbreaking situations.
But wait…aren’t nursing homes charged with protecting the most vulnerable members of our society?
Aren’t they supposed to follow rules to minimize virus transmission?
What’s the problem?
To keep profits up, many nursing homes hire low wage employees and in insufficient numbers. According to one report, the average nursing home attendant earns less than $23,000 per year. These overwhelmed workers may not have the time to change masks, gloves, and gowns each time they enter a room, and even if wanted to, they may not have had access to sufficient protective equipment. When shortcuts are taken outbreaks are inevitable. Data shows that nursing homes with more staff per resident have lower health inspection citations than facilities with less staff.
Health inspection violations?
Yes. Since 2017, health inspectors cited nursing homes for failing to provide adequate infection prevention more frequently than for any other reason. Covid-19 is just the most recent infectious control deficiency which also includes influenza and MERSA. Nursing homeowners know that coronavirus exposed these problems and they have been lobbying for immunity for their actions, or inactions, during the pandemic.
After spending much of my career representing insurance companies and banks, I now represent individuals and the families of those who cannot help themselves. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of being a lawyer. If you are one of the many people who are isolated from a family member living in a nursing home, keep an eye on the official Florida COVID-19 website. There you will find a report on the COVID-19 status at every nursing home in the state. Here is the website link and the report is found mid-way down the page. https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/
This blog is written by Partner Steve Clarfield.