Nursing Home Covid-19 Fatality Attorney: Chicago, Illinois
One of the "ground zero" locations for the COVID-19 (Coronravirus) pandemic in the United States was a nursing home in Kirkland, WA. Dozens of residents and staff members were sickened as the virus rapidly spread throughout the nursing home. However, the facility was by no means on top of the outbreak. The nursing home simply thought that it was dealing with an outbreak of the flu and failed to take the measures necessary to protect its residents from this deadly disease. As a result, the death toll just in this one facility alone continues to escalate.
The Chicago nursing home attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are currently evaluating nursing home negligence cases for families who have a loved one who contracted Coronavirus in a nursing home and have suffered substantial medical complications or death. If your loved one has been impacted by this, contact our office for a free consultation.
Nursing Homes can be Legally Responsible Even if COVID-19 is a Global Pandemic
Unfortunately, scenarios such as this are proving to be all too common during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though nursing homes are dealing with a new type of threat, they still have basic obligations to protect residents that they are failing to honor, resulting in an increased threat for an already vulnerable population. These facilities must take steps to prevent the spread of infection, an area that many of them had already struggled with even before the spread of a pandemic.
If your family member resides at a nursing home and they have contracted the coronavirus and suffered medical complications or died, the skilled nursing facility may be held legally responsible if it failed at its infection control obligations. The Illinois nursing home negligence attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you and your family if the COVID-19 outbreak has harmed your relative at a nursing home where staff did not take the appropriate measures to prevent an outbreak at the facility.
Coronavirus Outbreaks in U.S. Nursing Homes
Coronavirus has been ravaging nursing homes in the United States since the first outbreaks in this country were initially reported. COVID-19 is deadlier in older patients as it is a respiratory illness that affects those who already have weakened immune systems. There have been numerous cases and large-scale outbreaks reported in nursing homes across the country.
- On March 23, 2020, CMS announced that there were at least 147 nursing homes in the U.S. that had at least one resident with coronavirus. This number is expected to grow exponentially as the pandemic progresses. There are a total of 15,000 nursing homes in the country and the problem is expected to get much worse before the pandemic is under control.
- The outbreak in the Washington nursing home involved several situations in which residents were placed in immediate jeopardy by the actions of the nursing home. The facility failed to identify and care for sick residents and take measures to keep them separate from the rest of the seniors.
- As of March 23, 2020, there were 22 cases of COVID-19 in one Ohio County that resulted in three deaths as of this writing.
- Nine residents at a Connecticut nursing home tested positive for COVID-19 with two fatalities.
- A nursing home in Mount Vernon, NY registered 21 cases of coronavirus over a ten-day period.
This is just a small listing of the many outbreak clusters at nursing homes throughout the country. It is unfortunately likely that by the time that COVID-19 is brought under control that there will be countless cases among nursing home residents with a large number of fatalities.
The Federal Government has Given Clear Direction to Nursing Homes
Although nursing homes rarely if ever are required to deal with pandemics, some of their obligations in this area have been made clear to them. There have been several pieces of guidance that went out to nursing homes in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. CMS sent out a memorandum on March 9, after the coronavirus had already been in the news for weeks and the illness ravaged the Washington nursing home.
CMS described the contents of the memorandum as "clear, actionable guidance." Even though the guidance came in the form of a memo as opposed to regulation, these were steps that nursing homes were obligated to take after it was issued.
CMS' Guidance to Nursing Homes
At the time, CMS warned nursing homes that seniors were at the greatest possible risk from the coronavirus. In the memo, CMS gave guidance to nursing homes which included the following:
- Facilities must restrict the entry of all visitors and non-essential personnel. Visitors can only enter in compassionate situations.
- All communal group and dining activities must be canceled.
- Residents must be actively screened for symptoms and social distance must be practiced.
- Staff must be screened for symptoms at the beginning of each shift.
- Facilities must take care of how they deal with vendors and suppliers and screen those who enter the nursing home.
The CMS memo certainly directed nursing homes to be more vigilant in screening and maintaining distance and changed the normal operation of these facilities.
The CDC's Infection Control Guidance for Nursing Facilities
With regard to the coronavirus, nursing homes not only have standard anti-infection procedures but there is also CDC guidance on infection control that they must follow. After the CMS memo was issued, the CDC issued its own guidelines for infection prevention and control. These guidelines were in light of the situations that nursing homes were facing in keeping their residents safe. The guidance that the CDC issued included the following that applies to the nursing home setting:
- Assume that every resident is infected with the COVID-19 when entering their room and choosing the appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Consider patient placement for residents who are infected with COVID-19. Facilities need to consider hospitalization when necessary and should even consider home care as an option to avoid infecting others in the nursing home.
- Nursing homes should consider designating units of the facility to care for residents with COVID-19.
- Given the coronavirus' propensity to spread through the air, nursing must take care when performing aerosol-generating procedures.
- Visitor access in the facility must be managed (although most visitors are currently barred by CMS procedures)
- Monitoring and managing exposed and ill nursing home workers
- Control the environment to prevent the spread of infection
- Report to and communicate with healthcare authorities
This set of guidance has certainly presented challenges to nursing homes. In fact, nursing homes were already ill-equipped to deal with this sort of outbreak. Many of them were already deficient in the area of infection control and simply were not prepared for an outbreak of this magnitude.
Their lack of preparation was compounded by a scarcity of staff as nursing homes cut their expenses to the bone in order to squeeze out as many profits as possible from their business. This was further aggravated by the fact that nursing homes were chronically unprepared for a disaster and lacking in contingency plans.
Any Nursing Home can be Vulnerable to a Mass Covid-19 Outbreak
What is frightening about the possible scope of the outbreak in nursing homes is that the particular nursing home where this occurred was not a poorly rated facility. It received three stars in quality of life measures even though it had received 19 different citations in its most recent inspection report. Many nursing homes in this country offer care that is much more inferior to the Life Care facility that was ravaged by the outbreak and their residents are at risk of infection control practices that are poor even in optimal circumstances.
Coronavirus has exacerbated a situation in which poor staffing results in inadequate nursing home care. Many nursing homes were understaffed to begin with, and now will be struggling with further staffing issues as workers either cannot make it into work or get sick themselves. This will mean worsening care at facilities with an already dangerous lack of care.
Nursing homes are currently understaffed and many are not stocked with the proper supplies that they need to keep their residents safe from the coronavirus. This requires a full supply of sanitizers and disinfectants. While these supplies are difficult to find after the virus hits, a large number of nursing homes do not keep enough of these on hand to deal with mass infections such as COVID-19.
Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Committed to Holding Facilities Accountable for Covid-19 Deaths
If your loved one resides in a nursing home and contracted coronavirus, your family may have a legal cause of action against the nursing home on several different grounds. The first ground is that the facility may have failed to properly diagnose the disease. As you can see from the example of the nursing home in Washington, many nursing homes have failed to properly diagnose the illness confusing it with the flu.
Even after the initial outbreak, some nursing homes still failed to take the proper diagnostic measures to figure out the resident's illness. Even if the nursing home was not negligent for failing to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the nursing home, they could have been negligent for their inadequacies in diagnosis.
The second way that a nursing home can be negligent is in failing to prevent the outbreak in the nursing home. As you saw above, the nursing home must take various steps to keep its residents safe from the outbreak. Even though there is a pandemic, skilled nursing home facilities still do not have a blank check to disregard infection control procedures.
While the first coronavirus cases are still far from seeing a courtroom, we think that the following scenarios could be considered nursing home negligence:
- Failure to separate a resident exhibiting symptoms from the rest of the residents of the nursing home
- Treating a resident showing coronavirus symptoms as if they have the flu
- Failure to obtain prompt medical help for a sick resident
- Leaving a nursing home understaffed and failing to have a contingency staffing plan for emergencies
- Lacking proper policies and procedures to deal with infections
- Using unqualified medical personnel to conduct medical screenings and assessments for virus symptoms
Certainly, the CMS memorandum on March 9 would have put nursing homes on notice that there were steps that would need to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus. Nursing homes should have even been aware before that date that they were dealing with a highly contagious disease that had the ability to spread rapidly throughout their facility. The steps that a nursing home took to keep residents safe after news of the coronavirus began to circulate may be vital in determining whether the nursing home acted negligently.
Coronavirus Outbreaks in Nursing Homes Can Be a Sign of Negligence
In addition, a court may look at the resident's medical care from the time that the facility knew or should have known that they were exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus. The specific steps that the nursing home took or did not take can be an issue if the case goes to court. Being understaffed due to a health crisis may not be an acceptable mitigating excuse in front of a jury since nursing homes have an unchanging obligation to provide care.
Has Your Loved One Contracted COVID-19 at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we are experienced in holding nursing homes accountable for their lapses in resident care, including infection control deficiencies. While much remains to be seen as to how coronavirus cases develop legally, we believe that the principles of negligence that extend to every other aspect of nursing home care will also apply to coronavirus.
In other words, just because COVID-19 has presented a generational challenge, we do not believe that nursing homes will be given a free pass if they fail to take basic measures to keep the pandemic from spreading within their facilities.
If your loved one developed coronavirus in a nursing home, call us today at 888-424-5757 for a legal consultation. There is no cost to you for the consultation and, as always, you owe us nothing unless we are able to help you receive compensation from the nursing home for your loved one's injuries.