The COVID-19 pandemic affected the life of nearly every American in 2020, and the nation’s elderly paid a particularly high price. In Connecticut, 61% of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities occurred in nursing homes, and recent outbreaks in elderly care facilities in Davis Place and Putnam suggest that the battle against the disease is far from won. While infection rates in nursing homes are declining thanks to more robust containment efforts and the availability of vaccines, elderly Connecticut residents who suffer from conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease, hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease still face significantly higher risks.
If you are thinking about placing an elderly relative in a nursing home, the trap you should avoid falling into is assuming that all facilities are the same. Some nursing homes are taking COVID-19 extremely seriously and doing all that they can to protect their residents and staff, but others place profits above safety. Fortunately, there are several resources available from both state and federal authorities that could help you to make an informed and prudent decision. These resources could also provide information that you or your attorney could use to show a pattern of negligent behavior in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
The Federal SFF Program
Nursing home neglect and abuse was a major issue long before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed, and lax oversight and limited resources allowed the problem to fester. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services took action to address problem nursing homes by launching the Special Focus Facility Program, which is a list of nursing homes that have a history of serious violations. However, not all nursing homes that provide less than ideal care can be found on the SFF list. Nursing homes are only added to the list when they meet certain criteria.
- They must have about twice as many deficiencies as other nursing homes.
- The problems they have must be more serious than the issues at other facilities.
- There must be a pattern of abuse or neglect over a long period of time.
This means that the SFF list may provide a way to eliminate the very worst nursing homes from consideration, but it should not be the only resource you use during your research.
Connecticut Nursing Homes Independent Review
Fears about the conditions in nursing homes and the dangers posed to the elderly by COVID-19 prompted Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to order state officials to hire an independent research team to look into the way the state’s assisted living facilities are handling the pandemic. Information about the initiative can be found on the official Connecticut government website.
The researchers were tasked with assessing the overall impact of COVID-19 on Connecticut’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities and identifying conditions that could have facilitated the spread of the disease. They were also asked to provide suggestions for reducing infections and evaluate the effectiveness of the official response. The project was announced in June 2020, and the research team’s final report was published on Sept. 30.
Weekly COVID-19 Reports
Perhaps the most valuable resource currently available to individuals comparing nursing homes in Connecticut are the weekly reports that can be found on the state’s Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities Data webpage. The reports contain data about COVID-19 cases and deaths that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut are required to submit on an ongoing basis. If a facility is not mentioned in the report, it means that it had no COVID-19 cases or deaths to report. However, that does not mean the facility is COVID free. This is why you should check several reports and not just the recent ones.
Nursing Home Deficiencies and Violations
Another good resource is a list of nursing homes with a history of deficiencies or violations maintained by ProPublica. The New York-based non-profit group makes it easy to find key information by placing a red dot next to special focus facilities, a yellow dot next to nursing homes that may soon become special focus facilities and a green dot next to facilities that have at least one COVID-19 positive patient or staff member.
In addition to listing the number of COVID-19 cases and deficiencies in nursing homes, ProPublica also discloses the fines each facility has been ordered to pay. In January 2021, the list contained 212 nursing homes that had been fined a total of $1.8 million. Of these, 29 had serious deficiencies, 143 had virus-related deficiencies and 204 had at least one known case of COVID-19.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Negligent nursing homes and assisted living facilities that fail to take adequate steps to protect their residents and staff from the dangers posed by COVID-19 may be held accountable in civil court. When this negligence results in death rather than injury, a wrongful death lawsuit could be filed. Personal injury or wrongful death litigation is usually brought against nursing homes when they allow residents to be neglected or abused, do not hire enough staff to provide adequate care or fail to run background checks on the people they employ. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional responsibilities on nursing homes. These responsibilities include:
- Making sure residents and care staff are tested for the virus regularly.
- Removing members of staff and isolating residents who test positive for COVID-19.
- Paying particularly close attention to residents with comorbidities that would make a COVID-19 infection especially dangerous.
- Issuing staff with personal protective equipment and hand-washing facilities.
- Regularly disinfecting surfaces to reduce the spread of the disease.
- Providing state officials and the public with current and accurate data.
- Restricting access to common areas and cancelling group activities.
- Following all state and federal health guidelines.
We Can Help with Your Case
Failing to take these steps could lead to residents becoming infected who would otherwise have remained healthy. If you or one of your loved ones has become sick or died because a nursing home acted negligently, you should discuss the facts of your case with an experienced personal injury attorney. The Moynahan Law Firm has decades of experience in this area, and we always put the needs of our clients first.
If you would like to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal options, you can call us on (203) 597-6364 or contact us online. In these quickly changing times, we at The Moynahan Law Firm would also like to let you know that our offices are open for in-person and for virtual meetings upon request.