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Coronavirus Exposing the Awful Truth about Nursing Homes

The Washington Post reports that a startling 40% of the 650 nursing homes nationwide that have cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) were previously cited for violating infection control standards.

Frankly, no one should be all that surprised. The awful truth is that a disproportionate number of nursing homes (skilled nursing facilities (SNFs)) repeatedly fail to deliver even nominal standards of care during regular times. At this point, when a highly contagious virus can easily infect a large population of vulnerable elderly patients, the worst offenders are the ones that have the most cases. We don’t even need physical inspectors to go from facility to facility right now. If a skilled nursing facility has an outbreak of the Coronavirus and large numbers of residents become infected and die, it’s safe to assume that the institution failed to follow approved protocols.

By law, all nursing homes must have infection control programs to mitigate the possibility of a disaster. State and Federal regulations spell out the steps such facilities must take. Of course, it is impossible for nursing homes, or hospitals for that matter, to completely block viruses from coming in. Such eventualities are likely. It is for that reason that there are strict protocols nursing homes must follow to mitigate potential disasters. Epidemic disasters are not supposed to ever happen in nursing homes because there are a series of mandated steps they must take to prevent them in the first place.

It is worth pointing out that hospitals are not reporting outbreaks of Coronavirus because hospitals are historically better about having in effect Infection Control Practices and higher staffing levels.

Once this epic pandemic is over, if your loved one survives in a facility that suffered catastrophic losses of the kind reported by the Washington Post, whether or not there was a previous citation, our advice is tomove them quickly. Why? Epidemic deaths in nursing homes are not typical. When they happen, they are always signs of systemic failure – failure to staff appropriately, failure to follow infectious disease guidelines, and failure to use appropriate resources. Such places were always accidents waiting to happen, and this pandemic is now exposing them for what they are.

Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases.