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understaffing in nursing homes

New Study Highlights Ongoing Issues with High Staff Turnover as Major Contributor to COVID Nursing Home Deaths

As almost all U.S. nursing homes are working to vaccinate residents and staff, ongoing issues impacting the care residents require are proving to be the cause behind some of the most horrendous coronavirus neglect cases and disastrous infectious disease outbreaks in history. Authors of a new study published in Health Affairs on Mar. 1 highlight the persistent problems caused by an unstable long-term care workforce as one of the significant underlying threats that contributed to the staggering death tolls of nursing home residents start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 172,000 deaths from the virus had been reported among either residents or employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities by late February. In Illinois, the number of nursing home deaths as of Mar. 5 was 9,894.

As one of the nation’s leading nursing home abuse and neglect law firms, our attorneys found the study’s comprehensive findings were both devastating, but unfortunately, not shocking.

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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.

questions about covid-19 vaccine

Common Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines for Illinois Nursing Home Families

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), consistent with federal agency standards, recommends residents of long-term care facilities be included among those offered the first supply of COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for residents of long-term care facilities has been occurring in Phase 1A since the distribution began on December 28, 2020. The state has been using the federal government’s nursing home and long-term care vaccination program alongside Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in charge of administering the vaccine to residents.

The state health agency reports Phase 1A is still underway and about 41% of 850,000 health care workers and nursing home residents have received at least one inoculation and nearly 12% getting both doses so far.

nursing home staff must wash hands

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.

flu outbreaks during covid-19 pandemic

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:

covid-19 testing nursing home residents

Illinois Department of Public Health Says all Illinois Long-Term Care Facilities Must Test For COVID-19

On Thursday, May 28, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced a filling of emergency rules for long-term care facilities in response to the continuous spread of COVID-19 and related outbreaks. The mandates say these facilities “must comply with infection control practices, including testing all residents and staff for COVID-19.”

In addition, each facility will now be required to:

covid-19 cases in nursing homes

The Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) has made a map of the state’s long-term care facilities in Illinois with cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff public. The numbers are provisional, and the list is updated weekly to show lab-confirmed cases and cases meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) outbreak case definition.

While facility administrators have been instructed to restrict visits, cancel group activities, shut down dining rooms and screen residents and staff for fevers and respiratory disease symptoms, we encourage family members of residents who reside in an Illinois long-term care facility to visit this map often to help understand the growing risk COVID-19 may present to their loved ones.

Visit the IDPH website here and scroll down to locate the county in which the facility you are looking for is in.

Nursing Homes Must Report COVID-19 Sicknesses and Deaths

COVID-19 has an alarming infection rate across the U.S., now totaling more than 672,000 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Many of the individuals at most risk of a COVID-19 infection in Illinois reside at one of the state’s 1,200 long-term care facilities, responsible for the care of more than 100,000 individuals. Several advocates for quality long-term care are now raising questions about how accurate the reporting of COVID-19 cases among Illinois residents truly is and how that may be causing a delay in preventing the spread of the disease.

Levin & Perconti partner and attorney Steven Levin spoke to Chicago ABC7 about the role of inaccuracies in reporting COVID-19 cases in the state, saying, “I believe that reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. I believe we are going to find a scary situation once independent observers can go into the nursing homes to see what’s happened.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says as many as 305 long-term health care facilities have felt the impact of the highly contagious virus, with many nursing homes experiencing wide-spread community transmission. While there is no publicly available list of Illinois facilities battling coronavirus infections, on Wednesday, April 15, the state reported 1,587 cases associated with long-term facilities and 296 related deaths, including residents and staff.

levin & perconti coronavirus update questions

What kinds of social distancing measures are nursing homes taking at this stage of the pandemic?

CMS guidelines have eliminated all communal meals and activities to limit residents’ contact with each other and allow facilities to repurpose communal spaces (like activity rooms) to spread residents out. Likewise, CMS is prohibiting visitation by family and friends, advocates and non-essential health care providers. The only exception is for “compassionate situations,” including but not limited to end-of-life visitation. Visitors making compassionate visits will be required to wear personal protective equipment, comply with other safety measures and refrain from physical contact. Finally, a person exhibiting any respiratory symptoms whatsoever will not be allowed to visit.

Facilities should already be following longstanding CDC guidelines for infection prevention. Here are some questions that can guide your inquiry into whether they currently comply with the rules.

Nursing Homes Must Do More to Protect Residents and Staff

First Illinois Nursing Home to Report Coronavirus Outbreak is in DuPage County

Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are reporting at least 46 people, including both residents and staff, have tested positive for coronavirus at a DuPage county nursing home. This is the first coronavirus outbreak in a long-term care facility in the state. Chicago’s WGN9 reported the first confirmed test of a Willowbrook resident over the weekend by state health officials. Only days later, the virus moved quickly to others at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located in the 7000 block of South Madison Street in Willowbrook. Thirty-three of the cases are residents, and 13 are staff members. Public health officials said other residents are now isolated in another area of the facility as officials expect additional positive tests to come back. Willowbrook is a southwestern suburb of Chicago.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out a new set of rules for nursing home facilities on Friday, March 13. The strict guidance says that all visitors and non-essential health care personnel should be restricted, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In addition, long-term care staff should start being screened for symptoms before starting their shift.

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