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Illinois Lawmakers Introduce “COVID-19 Safety Net” Bill Until In-Person Visitation Resumes

There have been over 70,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Illinois nursing homes and over 10,300 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Sadly, nearly half of the state’s total death count has been nursing home residents. Many were never able to see their loved ones in person or say goodbye to them before they passed as almost all residents and their family members were prevented from visits for some time. Although the pause was likely necessary to prevent the further spread of the highly contagious virus, it also triggered concerns of abuse and neglect going unnoticed and a call from industry advocates to do more.

Most families have been forced to use or purchase personal devices for residents, but the failure to coordinate the calls showed how ill-equipped homes and staff are. Sadly, regular calls are not a reality for most Illinois long-term care residents. For some of the luckier residents, virtual visits were enough to keep their loved ones knowing they are being looked after, especially those with cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s disease.

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Report Shows Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gravely Affected Resident Exposure to COVID-19 at LaSalle Nursing Home

The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its investigative report identifying the causes behind the massive COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the state-run veterans’ Home in LaSalle. The long-awaited public report confirms what many of us already know and outlines the unforgiving failures that resulted in the untimely death of 36 people from coronavirus. Notes published by the OIG show that the facility did not implement the proper infection control policies to prevent the spread of the disease among staff and residents and allowed a deadly outbreak to go on despite warnings. 

The report paints a gloomy picture that documents failures from many. It leads with, “Ultimately, our investigation determined that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (IDVA) lack of COVID-19 preparation contributed to the scope of the outbreak at the home. In addition, failures in communication at the home and within the IDVA leadership also contributed to a delayed response to the outbreak.”

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3 Illinois Nursing Homes Are Stuck on Government List for Ongoing Poor Quality Ratings and Care Citations

A recent effort sponsored by Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey and his counterpart Bob Casey shows that the nation’s most troubled nursing homes require expanded support, specific to expanding the Special Focus Facility program and the list provided by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and state inspectors which publicly review ongoing nursing home care and identify quality issues.

According to CMS officials, the “Special Focus Facility” (SFF) program was created to identify nursing homes that are not meeting health care or fire safety standards and are continuously cited for deficiencies.

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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’s Long-Term Care Residents and Healthcare Workers in Line To Receive First Round of COVID-19 Vaccines

An emergency meeting led by the immunization advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, confirmed that long-term care residents and healthcare workers would be the first to access the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. Once authorized by the federal government, an estimated 3 million residents and 21 million healthcare workers at long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing, assisted living, and other residential care facilities, will be eligible. The CDC is expected to provide further guidelines on how to distribute amongst the groups.

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News is reporting the groups will be treated as so:

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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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Levin & Perconti 2020: Recovering 74+ Million for Clients

Last year, the attorneys at Levin & Perconti obtained more than $74 million in total settlements for their clients, placing the firm among the top 5 in the state, as ranked by Jury Verdict Reporter in its 2020 Settlement Report.

“We are deeply proud to be recognized for our success in securing top-dollar settlements for our clients,” said Levin & Perconti partner Steven Levin. “This is how we hold accountable those who cause injury and suffering to others.”

Partners At Illinois Law Firm Recognized As Leaders

Levin & Perconti Partners Chosen as Influential Leaders in Legal Profession

Levin & Perconti partners Margaret Battersby Black and Mike Bonamarte have been separately acknowledged for their work as leading attorneys in Illinois. Battersby Black has been nominated for her rising influence as a woman in the legal field and named to Crains Notable Women list for 2020. And, Bonamarte has been asked to join the Illinois State Bar Association’s steering committee on racial inequity.

In 2020, also Battersby Black and Bonamarte joined Levin & Perconti partners Steven Levin, John Perconti, and Susan Novosad for achieving the notable 2020 Illinois Super Lawyer title. The attorneys were recognized for individual and team work representing clients in medical malpractice and personal injury cases, including nursing home abuse and neglect. Bonamarte and Battersby Black were previously honored by the Super Lawyers Rising Stars program for early-career lawyers, multiple times.

abuse of covid-19 relief funds

Some U.S. Nursing Home Providers Will Misuse COVID Relief Funds

A revealing story published in the Washington Post shows that many for-profit nursing homes across the U.S., received hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID relief by The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The funds were intended to be shared to help health care workers and nursing home residents address pandemic-related shortcomings in care, but came with few spending restrictions. Unfortunately, some for-profit owners may take advantage of the support rather than spend the money on necessities such as personal protective equipment or hazard pay for nurses and aides caring for residents battling COVID-19.

According to Health and Human Services (HHS):

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Illinois Nursing Home Facilities with Ongoing Infectious Disease Shortcomings

For decades, nursing home owners and operators have cut corners and allowed their facilities to perform under minimal oversight. Legal liability serves a definite purpose and is a functional safeguard for nursing home residents who have the right to be served by an operation that complies with laws and regulations. Our attorneys are currently investigating outbreaks and reviewing over 100 complaints involving assisted living, long-term care, and skilled nursing facilities that have failed to uphold adequate procedures and responsibility related to the COVID-19 outbreak in the greater Chicago area and surrounding communities in Illinois.

Here is a summary of facilities representing only a small number of our findings.

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