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Profits Over Patients; Nursing Home Residents Didn’t Need To Die

Lobbyists for big nursing home chains are working overtime right now to persuade state legislators that their clients, like everyone else in this coronavirus pandemic, need a bailout. They want a “Get out of Jail Free” card.  These nursing home chains are making a fortune, still earning their revenue during this pandemic, unlike other industries.

Sixteen states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Michigan, have passed new laws granting immunity from lawsuits to nursing homes that were hard hit by COVID-19, according to an article published yesterday in the New York Times. No doubt, lawmakers think they are doing the right thing by passing new measures, reasoning that these facilities might face massive lawsuits and liability from the staggering number of deaths at their institutions. And, indeed, a fifth of U.S. virus deaths are linked to nursing facilities.

Unfortunately, lawmakers’ good intentions have unintended consequences. Instead of holding nursing home operators accountable for inadequate infection control procedures and understaffing, immunity grants will only serve to reward them further massively. As their residents die, those long-term care homes will quickly fill the vacant beds will new residents for whom the reimbursement rates will be higher. And best of all, they will face no consequences for their lapses in hygiene, infection control, and understaffing. Instead of the worst chains being held accountable and, dare we hope, forced to go out of business, they can instead look forward to windfall profits at the expense of taxpayers and the senior citizen casualties in their facilities.

Let’s stop to think. During this pandemic, have all nursing homes seen the same infection and death rates? If you look carefully, there is a disproportionate number of nursing home deaths in individual facilities. Some researchers are looking for a correlation between facilities with low government ratings and a higher incidence of death among residents. But that analysis misses the point. The real question to ask is much simpler: are all nursing homes seeing the same death rates? The answer is no. Some facilities have no deaths, while others have massive death rates. How can that be? The answer is simple. Facilities that rigorously follow guidelines for infection controls and sufficient staffing levels are well-prepared for the pandemic. All nursing homes should be more than capable of handling whatever comes along, no matter what the infection is. All they need to do to limit outbreaks is to adhere to the right procedures – staffing, provide PPE equipment, and maintain adequate infection control practices.

The idea that no facilities could prevent massive numbers of deaths from the novel coronavirus is a smokescreen. It’s straightforward and super simple: facilities that follow procedures will see few or no deaths; ones that don’t will witness massive numbers of deaths.

Don’t be duped by greedy and reckless nursing home operators, and save your pity for the people who need it, namely the innocent elderly residents of long-term care facilities who are now being slaughtered by the hundreds.  Stop elder neglect and abuse.

Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases. For further information, please visit us at www.yorklawcorp.com.