While COVID-19 spreads around the country and the world, nursing homes in North Carolina and beyond must do everything in their power to prevent outbreaks at their facilities. As of April 13, 2020, about 14 outbreaks had been reported at nursing homes and residential care facilities across North Carolina.
What Is an Outbreak?
According to public health officials, an outbreak occurs when “two are more individuals [are] diagnosed with COVID-19.” The 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is highly contagious, so if one employee or resident of the nursing home or long-term care facility is diagnosed, an outbreak may be difficult to prevent. As such, all providers must take certain precautions (discussed later on) to keep residents safe and avoid negligence.
Why Safety Matters
COVID-19 is especially dangerous for adults over 65 or anyone with a serious underlying medical condition. The residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are most at risk because they are usually older and frequently have conditions like:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- Serious heart conditions
- Compromised immune systems
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes why safety matters most at nursing homes and long-term care facilities:
“8 out of 10 deaths reported in the United States have been adults 65 years old and older…Given their congregate nature and resident population served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions), nursing home populations are at the highest risk of being affected by COVID-19.”
To account for the at-risk populations in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the CDC has issued advisories and guidelines for all care providers. Per these guidelines, nursing homes should:
- Keep COVID-19 from entering their facilities
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Identify infections early
- Prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Identify and manage severe illness
Although these seem like difficult goals, the CDC has released actionable steps for all of them. Further, the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) has updated its guidance for infection control and prevention.
All staff and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities should be monitored for respiratory symptoms, and staff should work diligently to restrict unnecessary visits and sanitize all facilities. The United States is suffering a shortage of PPE, so nursing homes need to assess and optimize their existing supply. If a case of COVID-19 develops, staff should take proper measures for isolation and treatment.
With all these precautions, an outbreak could be prevented. If CDC and CMS guidelines are ignored, however, an outbreak may be inevitable.
If you are concerned about an outbreak at your loved one’s nursing home, our attorneys may be able to investigate the situation and take corrective legal action if necessary.
The Good News
Reputable nursing homes are well-equipped and experienced in handling infectious diseases. Even the flu can have deadly consequences for those who are older or have preexisting conditions, so adding a few more precautions can help them avoid a COVID-19 outbreak.
Medical professionals across the nation are working harder than ever to keep our loved ones safe and healthy. In many cases, their efforts pay off.
The Bad News
Nursing homes with a history of neglect and abuse are more likely to have outbreaks. If you are not sure how your loved one’s providers are handling COVID-19, you should not hesitate to ask. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must also inform you if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 on site.
If your loved one is diagnosed with COVID-19, suffers complications, or succumbs to the illness, you have a right to determine whether or not nursing home negligence was involved.
How We Can Help
Benoit Law Firm, PLLC is here to help you navigate this sensitive situation and difficult time. We are a small, client-focused firm with experience on both sides of civil litigation.
While we appreciate our heroes in the medical field for taking care of our loved ones, we do not accept patterns of neglect and abuse at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, particularly when they lead to serious injuries or death.
If you need us to look into a nursing home after a disastrous case of COVID-19, we are ready and willing to do so.
Please call Benoit Law Firm, PLLC at (877) 909-4088 or contact us online to get started with a free and confidential consultation.