CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO HIGHLIGHT LONGSTANDING DEFICIENCIES IN NURSING HOMES
Early into the coronavirus pandemic it became clear that the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, are at highest risk for contraction of the virus and are most likely to suffer severe complications from the virus, including death. Many nursing homes throughout the United States have long been known to provide substandard care to our seniors. As Buffalo nursing home abuse attorneys, we hear from children with concerns about their mothers, and fathers, not getting minimum safe care, from understaffing issues to cases of elder abuse and neglect. The care of our seniors in nursing homes has been under scrutiny for some time, often with disturbing findings.
The nursing homes in the Western New York area, including Buffalo nursing homes, Niagara County nursing homes, Erie County nursing homes and other area facilities are no exception to this failure of the system to provide quality care to our seniors. A review of Medicare’s ratings of nursing homes in the Buffalo and Western New York area reveal that very few nursing homes receive a five-star rating. And most struggle to get a two or three-star rating. Recently, New York Department of Health inspections found seventy-seven violations in nursing homes just during the coronavirus pandemic alone.
Some of the nursing home violations were for failing to follow basic, but crucial, infectious disease control guidelines like having staff wear masks and wash their hands. This lacks management by nursing home operators is plain wrong, and it is understandable that children worried about their parents have been outraged. Some children have reached out to nursing home abuse lawyers to see what they could do to protect their parents.
There were also violations for nursing homes that failed to isolate patients known to have the COVID-19 virus from non-infected residents. Humboldt House Rehab and Nursing Center in Buffalo was served with the largest fine in New York State, where inspections revealed that COVID-19 positive patients were mixed on the same floors with people not known to have the virus. Certainly, Covid is a horrible virus, and our seniors are particularly vulnerable. The lack of proper care to protect our vulnerable seniors only makes the probability of contracting Covid that much greater. The fine to the Buffalo nursing facility was $50,000. This amount is not enough to punish for the lives that were lost or put at risk for the negligent actions of the nursing homes who failed to provide reasonable safety measures to avoid the spread of the virus to vulnerable residents.
New York State, like many other states throughout the country, enacted legislation during the coronavirus pandemic giving nursing homes immunity from lawsuits by nursing home residents or their loved ones who may have contracted the virus or even died as a result. However, the New York State “immunity” legislation does not provide facilities with blanket protection against nursing home lawsuits regarding the coronavirus. There are exceptions to nursing homes’ immunity for COVID-19 cases. This is especially true where a nursing home failed to follow minimal health and safety guidelines, such as having staff wear proper PPE, isolating residents who have the virus from those that do not, and testing staff and new residents for COVID-19 upon admission to the nursing home. The issues are complex, as the laws are complex. Which is why some people see advice from a nursing home abuse attorney.
Another issue with nursing homes which is getting more attention during the coronavirus pandemic is the way the facilities are structured. As managed, the structure of many nursing homes fails to provide meaningful long-term care to residents. Many nursing homes are viewed to be set up like hospitals or even warehouses. Rooms are often not private but shared by residents. Eating areas are set up like school cafeterias and crammed common areas are used for entertainment and family visits. This institutional design of nursing homes makes residents feel nothing like a “home”, but more like a hospital. It also fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as colds, flu’s, including the coronavirus, not to mention other unsanitary spreaders such as bedbugs.
This has caused some to find better ways to care for our elderly. A promising model used in other countries focuses on smaller group homes of about 8-10 residents that feels more like a home than a hospital and residents receive more one on one care. These smaller pods or homes are often placed in a larger community of similar type residences. The nursing home community provides services like hairdressers, shops, and restaurants for the residents to visit.
As the forward thinking push to improve the lives of the elderly it is important to monitor the current conditions our seniors are living under. If you have a loved one in a nursing home do not hesitate to contact the Department of Health over concerns of health and safety violations at the facility. Also, reach out to our nursing home abuse attorneys. Call 716-854-0700 for a confidential consultation with a nursing home neglect attorney at Feroleto Law. The consultation is free and there is no fee for the consultation. If we accept your case, there is no fee unless we recover for the harms caused by the negligence of the nursing home or facility.