The twelve nursing home deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma put a national spotlight on just how ill-equipped to deal with crises these facilities are. As a global pandemic that is particularly fatal for the elderly, the question once again arises: are nursing homes and assisted living facilities capable of handling the coronavirus?

The answer is likely, no. As a personal injury attorney who has tried multiple cases of nursing home neglect, even simple day-to-day operations at these facilities can be a challenge.  Coronavirus compounds the issues and lays a new set of challenges for the administrative teams and healthcare workers. 

Why should long-term care facilities be especially worried? Death rates from coronavirus are estimated to be at 14.8% for individuals 80 years or greater. In comparison, estimated mortality rates for individuals aged thirty to thirty-nine are 0.2%.  Additionally, preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, all commonly found in nursing home residents, make individuals significantly more vulnerable.  

Under President Trump’s national emergency declaration, visits to nursing homes are temporarily restricted. While this is a crucial step in limiting outside contact, the healthcare professionals that work in these facilities continue to pose a threat. The CDC recommends screening employees for coronavirus symptoms at the beginning of their shifts and sending sick individuals home. 

Unfortunately, the CDC does not explain how elder care facilities will provide the appropriate levels of staffing. Florida law mandates one certified nursing assistant (CNA) for every twenty nursing home residents and one licensed nurse for every forty residents. Falling below the requirement puts these facilities at risk of nursing home neglect lawsuits.  

nursing home

In addition to staff, long-term care facilities are already experiencing equipment shortages. An AARP article points out that basic supplies such as gowns and face masks made in China are hard to come by. Overseas products however are not the only concern. If the coronavirus continues to spread, resources could be diverted to hospitals causing a critical shortage. CDC nursing home guidelines point out that it is the responsibility of the administrative teams to monitor supply levels, create a contingency plan and alert their health department or health coalition when they experience or anticipate a shortage.

Nursing homes could potential open themselves up to claims of negligence if they are not performing the following: Actively surveilling residents for signs of the coronavirus; limiting symptomatic as well as exposed patients access to others; and, have not created a way to separate diagnosed patients from others, or have not assigned a separate health care professional staff to treat patients infected with the virus.

The reality is that the CDC issued recommendations for long-term care facilities in January. They have had ample time to prepare.

At Baron & Herskowitz, our attorneys advocate for elderly patients and their families. We have the knowledge and experience to hold nursing homes accountable for the harm they cause to the elderly and their families. If you have questions we can help contact us today to learn more about our services. For a free consultation, please call (305) 670-0101 or email at info@bhfloridalaw.com.