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COVID-19 Vaccines Are Showing Improvement in Illinois Nursing Home Infections

Finally, as more and more vaccines are being distributed by CVS Health and Walgreens and now received by Illinois’ most vulnerable residents against the coronavirus, the majority of the state’s 1,800 long-term care sites have now completed their first round of shots. The CDC reported on a sample of 11,460 skilled-nursing sites that while 77.8% of residents had received a dose, only 37.5% of employees received their first dose. The low number could prove to be problematic and related to inadequate worker training and education.

Nursing home residents, rehabilitation patients, and those dependents on assisted living services account for nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. The Illinois Department of Public Health recorded only 861 new cases and 85 fatalities among residents during the week ending Friday, Feb. 18. That was the lowest weekly death tally for Illinois long-term care facilities since October.

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2021 Justice in Aging Guide Identifies 25 Ongoing Nursing Home Problems

State-licensed elder care and rehabilitation centers in Illinois may include assisted living facilities, and residential or personal care homes. Unfortunately, hundreds of investigations into these facilities continue to reveal these 25 repetitive problems noted by the Justice in Aging. The organization’s newly published 2021 list points to issues related to relaxed oversight and understaffing workforces, preventable resident injuries, painful and unnecessary evictions, Medicaid complications, dangerous patient abuse and neglect, and irreversible tragedies for families.

Problem #1: Providing Less Care to Medicaid-eligible Residents

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Levin & Perconti Representing Bloomington Family After COVID-19-Related Nursing Home Death

In May 2020, Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health, located at 1925 South Main Street in Bloomington, was home to a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in 59 confirmed cases among staff and residents and the death of 11 residents. Levin & Perconti is representing the family of one of those residents. Marlene Cowans-Hill, a 72-year-old woman from Bloomington, was a resident at the long-term care facility when the outbreak occurred.

Levin & Perconti lawyers filed the lawsuit against the facility’s parent company, Petersen Health Care, on November 20, 2020, alleging “gross negligence” related to Cowans-Hill’s lack of attention and care by staff and her untimely death. Her daughter, Anita Martin of Bloomington, is named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit. The 48-page lawsuit alleges the older woman suddenly became sick while living at the long-term care facility and tested positive for COVID-19 just days before she died.

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Former Chicago Nursing Home Executive Has Sentence Commuted After Found Guilty of Largest U.S. Medicare Fraud Scheme

Philip Esformes, who used to be a well-known Chicago-area nursing home mogul, also known as the King of Medicaid Fraud, was released from prison after President Donald Trump commuted his sentence on December 22, 2020. The Presidential commutation disturbingly lessened the former executive’s criminal sentence, without vacating the conviction itself. Esformes, 51, was arrested in 2016 for various acts of criminal conduct tied to a $1.3 billion Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme found through a complex web of bank accounts and systemic payment of bribes. Ultimately, he was caught continuously cycling as many as 14,000 nursing home and assisted living residents in Chicago and Miami while collecting millions from government programs designed to support services he never provided. In 2019, Federal prosecutors sentenced Esformes to 20 years in prison.

“Esformes exploited and victimized patients by providing inadequate medical care and poor conditions in his nursing homes. We will continue the fight against such parasites.” -Shimon Richmond, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector Generals (Miami)

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Chicago-Area Nursing Home Workers Ask For New Contract and Agree To ‘Tentatively’ End Strike

Much like hospital staff, Illinois nursing home employees have been working under complicated circumstances as the coronavirus continues to spread. So, it comes with no surprise that after requests for a safer workplace had stalled since June, an estimated 700 care workers from Infinity Healthcare Management walked off the job in late November, prompting a 12-day strike. The employees, who have been facing extreme workplace challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the greater Chicago-area, say they deserve significant wage increases equal to other nursing homes. The workers asked for a $2 an hour bump in pay and COVID hazard pay for all employees working at a facility with positive residents without attendance requirements, and also a guarantee for tools and resources such as personal protection equipment (PPE).

The nursing home workers and SEIU Healthcare Illinois union leaders announced on Friday, December 4th, that they had reached a possible agreement with Infinity leaders. The new ‘tentative’ agreement, according to SEIU, calls for a new three-year contract which includes:

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7 Hand Hygiene Truths to Keep Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Accountable

Hand hygiene for infection prevention is an essential part of the U.S. response to the preventing further spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. Nursing home staff should especially adhere to the standard and transmission-based precautions when caring for their patients. Here is a closer look at seven truths provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to explain how properly cleaned hands of health care workers can protect our most vulnerable populations.

  1. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is more effective and less drying than using soap and water. Compared to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are better at reducing bacterial counts on hands and are effective against multidrug-resistant organisms (e.g., MRSA). Additionally, alcohol-based hand sanitizers cause less skin irritation than frequent use of soap and water.

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Associated Press: “Residents are suffering and dying from neglect.”

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin and Perconti support a statement provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in response to a November 19, 2020, Associated Press report, Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows. The article only confirmed what advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, care workers, and families have known for months: residents are suffering and dying from neglect.

According to the AP:

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Massachusetts Nursing Home Leaders Are First to Face Criminal Charges Related to Coronavirus Deaths

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts is home to 76 patients who died due to coronavirus outbreak that began in March and led to 160 residents and staff members found to be positive for COVID-19. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, two leaders of the veterans’ home have now been criminally charged for those related deaths. Healey said the nursing home officials are believed to be the first in the country to face criminal charges in connection with the pandemic.

According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, “A grand jury indicted former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh, 50, and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton, 71, based on their decision to merge two dementia care units, combining COVID-19 positive residents with others who were asymptomatic.”

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COVID-19 Care Failures Should Prepare Illinois Nursing Homes for Influenza Outbreaks

In the last flu season, an estimated 35.5 million people were sick with the illness, 16.5 million people required a health care provider for their treatment, and there were 490,600 influenza hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an estimated 213,000 related deaths and counting, medical communities agree that this year’s influenza burden may magnify one of the deadliest illnesses in the United States, with the elderly residing in nursing homes affected most severely.

Shockingly, U.S. nursing homes have the lowest flu shot rates among health settings, leaving many residents of nursing homes already at a significant risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, now left to battle influenza. And as we have witnessed with the rapid spread of COVID-19, many nursing homes and long-term care facilities are not necessarily prepared to prevent an infectious disease outbreak among residents and staff. The pandemic has brought renewed attention to nursing home quality issues related to infectious diseases, such as:

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Nursing Home Outbreak at Stearns Facility Points to Sick Care Workers

An Illinois nursing home in Madison County is under investigation related to a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed 12 people and infected more than 100. Stearns Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is located at 2900 Stearns Avenue in Granite City. The 109-bed home operates as a lower quality, One-Star Medicare Certified, Medicaid Approved skilled nursing center.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, an investigation led by the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) revealed that the nursing home allowed employees to continue working despite testing positive for COVID-19. A facility director cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that address mitigating staff shortages to justify the shortcoming.

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