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covid-19 senate committee letter

Levin & Perconti’s Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorneys Ask Lawmakers to Reject Immunity for Substandard COVID-19 Care

During these difficult times, it remains vital for patients and their families to understand that nursing home residents still have the right to proper care and providers should always be held accountable when that care goes badly wrong.

On May 11, Levin & Perconti attorneys joined more than a dozen advocate organizations made up of nursing-home residents’ lawyers, families, and elder care leaders, in requesting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein, oppose granting a liability shield to nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, 18 states have issued some form of immunity from liability related to care provided during the crisis by long-term care facilities. By providing immunity, Congress is placing nursing home residents in jeopardy at a time when older Americans are suffering most from outbreaks. Here is a brief synopsis of this important letter.

“As you are aware, Covid-19 is raging through nursing homes across the country. To date, at least 11,000 nursing home residents have died due to Covid-19, although we expect that number is much larger. Stripping residents of their right to hold nursing homes accountable for substandard care will put more residents at risk and inevitably result in increased resident deaths. We implore you to keep this fundamental right in place and to consider other solutions to promote the safety and welfare of residents.”

The letter continued, “The needs of nursing home residents are significant. The increased prevalence of physical and cognitive impairments places residents at great risk of abuse, neglect, and poor care. As a society, we have always afforded nursing home residents access to the legal system because we understand how important it is to their health and well-being. Residents depend on the quality of care provided by nursing homes. Judicial recourse discourages current and future bad practices by nursing homes and helps bring about positive health outcomes for nursing home residents. By allowing nursing homes to operate without this important check, we sacrifice one of the most effective tools in ensuring our fellow citizens are not neglected and harmed.

Prior to Covid-19, nursing home residents were visited by their families and friends, who kept a watchful eye on the care their loved ones were receiving. Residents were assisted by the advocacy of long-term care Ombudsmen, protection and advocacy agencies, and licensing agencies conducted regular inspections and responded to complaints. Currently, none of these necessary protections are operating sufficiently to ensure resident safety. Due to lockdowns, residents are living and dying in nursing homes isolated from their families and absent any outside oversight. In truth, very few people, other than staff, know what is happening in nursing homes at this time. Essentially, the only mechanism available for a nursing home resident to hold facilities responsible for substandard care is judicial recourse. By removing this safety net, nursing homes will have little to no oversight.”

The notice was authored and supported by:

  • California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
  • Center for Medicare Advocacy
  • Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
  • Law Firm of D. F. Truhowsky
  • Long Term Care Community Coalition
  • NALLTCO – National Association of Local Long Term Care Ombudsman
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • National Association of State Long Term Care Ombudsman Programs
  • The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • Rivera & Shackelford, P.C.
  • Service Employees International Union

The letter closed with a strong urgency for the Committee to reject immunity, and instead send a message that our country will not tolerate negligent care of our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors.

A Foreseeable Long-Term Care Crisis

Year after year U.S. nursing homes, including those in Illinois, have been cited for poor infection control procedures and substandard care. As longtime advocates for nursing home residents and their families, it is clear that this disease crisis was foreseeable and preventative measures have been left unprioritized.

Serving as an example of how ill-prepared the industry was, a McKnight’s Long-Term Care News survey published on March 30, 2020, shows more than 77% of the nation’s nursing homes were both underequipped and understaffed prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey found:

  • More than 77% of respondents said their facilities were experiencing personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.
  • Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) said their locations were using homemade or improvised PPE, or reusing it. Masks, gowns, gloves and shoe covers are just some of the infection control products falling under the PPE label.
  • Nearly half of the respondents (48%) said they have workers “calling in sick” due to or exhibiting signs of COVID-19.
  • More than 19% of survey respondents reported that COVID-19 had been detected in at least one resident or worker at their facility.
  • Over half (51%) of the survey respondents said their buildings were not currently equipped to handle COVID-19 patients.
  • More than 15% said their facilities already had been pressured to admit COVID patients from the hospital, while 72% said they hadn’t and 12% weren’t sure.
  • A majority of respondents have observed some kind of anxiety among staff.

For years, nursing home owners and operators have cut these same quality care corners and allowed for facilities to perform under minimal oversight. Legal liability serves a strong purpose and is a functional safeguard for nursing home residents who have the right to quality care and to be served by an operation that complies with laws and regulations. If you suspect a nursing home facility’s shortcomings have contributed to the decline of a loved one’s health or put them in danger during this unprecedented time, please contact us for a free consultation with a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.

Ask for Help and Contact Levin & Perconti Law Firm

Through our work, the attorneys at Levin & Perconti understand the challenges this crisis presents related to the care of nursing home residents. Please contact us now for a free legal consultation at 312-332-2872 or toll-free at 877-374-1417.

Also read: Why You Shouldn’t Sign a Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement

 

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