In the Face of Coronavirus, Nursing Home Safety Is More Important Than Ever
There is no doubt that our vulnerable seniors bear the greatest risk from the national COVID-19 pandemic. Patients residing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are at special risk not only because of their advanced age and underlying health conditions, but having close contact with so many other residents and staff, which raises their risk of contracting the deadly virus. Indeed, nursing homes in Florida and around the country have experienced mass outbreaks and 3,600 deaths from coronavirus as of this writing.
For these reasons, most nursing homes have limited or prohibited residents from receiving outside visitors, even family members. But it’s almost impossible to eliminate the risk entirely, and it’s especially sobering when one considers that many nursing homes already struggle with understaffing and lax safety and hygiene practices in the best of times.
In early April, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), a trade group that represents state nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, asked Governor Ron DeSantis for broad liability protections from COVID-19 claims for all state health care providers. The group requested that providers have immunity from criminal and civil liability for any damages alleged “as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health-care services,” during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The group clarified that it was not requesting immunity for criminal or intentional misconduct, but instead for COVID-19 related negligence claims arising from a shortage of medical staff or resources. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said it would consider the request but had not issued a decision as of April 16, while the state recorded 23,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 633 deaths from the virus. The health department reported more than 1,100 nursing home residents and staff infected statewide. The nursing care situation is so urgent that Gov. DeSantis ordered health department “strike teams” to 93 facilities.
FHCA claims it seeks the protections because caregivers are risking their lives daily to care for the state’s elders, while struggling to obtain enough coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
However, some in the legal community counter that recent federal legislation enacted to respond to the pandemic, including the $2-trillion CARES Act, already exempts caregivers and their employers from liability arising out of COVID-19 medical care, and that the kind of broad immunity requested by FHCA would lead to abuses by a few bad players in the nursing home industry.
The fact is that notwithstanding the bravery and dedication exhibited by the pandemic’s front line workers, including those in senior facilities, many long-term care facilities have a poor record when it comes to patient neglect and lapses in safety. Our nursing home and medical malpractice attorneys have seen the dire consequences of this negligence when patients suffer and even die as a result of pressure sores, infections, medication errors and other preventable nursing home dangers.
Let the Team at Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group Help Protect Your Aging Loved Ones
The dedicated Tampa nursing home abuse attorneys at Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group remain available to serve clients during the COVID-19 crisis and are here to address your questions and concerns about all matters related to the ongoing pandemic. We practice in the Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg areas. Call us today at 813-242-4404 for a free consultation.