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How Pennsylvania’s Nursing Homes Could Have Better Protected Residents From COVID-19

hospital sign that reads coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world and changed the typical day for most Americans. Work-from-home routines, altered grocery store checkout lines, and mask requirements are what many people have been dealing with. For the majority of those who have fallen ill, symptoms have been mild and recovery has been short. But the most vulnerable—particularly those in nursing homes, have been dealing with a far worse situation.

According to the latest data from the U.S. government, nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 and more than 60,000 have fallen ill. Those figures, however, are incomplete because they do not account for all of the nursing homes across the country. It’s likely the numbers are considerably higher, but the figures are only compiled from the facilities that have released their data.

In Pennsylvania, nursing homes have been just as affected by the pandemic as other states. Unfortunately, the state’s response makes accurate data hard to come by. But, it’s likely a number of the infection could have been prevented. Let’s take a look at how Pennsylvania’s nursing home could have better-protected residents from COVID-19.

COVID-19 in Pennsylvania’s Nursing Homes

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, approximately two-thirds of the state’s coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. By nature, nursing homes are more susceptible to the spread of infection and viruses like COVID-19.

According to Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, nursing home residents who tested positive for the virus were segregated from other residents. While the state has sent 1,800 shipments of personal protective equipment to long-term care facilities, a number of workers and employees have fallen ill with COVID-19 as well.

While the majority of nursing homes in the state have reported zero COVID-19 cases, new outbreaks are still occurring daily. According to the COVID-19 Long-Term Care Facilities Data, the facility with the most reported coronavirus cases is the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County with 376 positive cases. As a result, 76 residents have died and over 30 staff members have been infected.

Complaint Filed Against the PA Department of Health

In response to the infections and deaths in PA nursing homes, four in-state law firms, including Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, Kanter, Bernstein & Kardon PC, Massa, Butler, Giglione, and Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C. have filed a joint complaint against the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s response during the coronavirus outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities across the state.

The complaint alleges that residents in multiple facilities were and are still being denied the proper mitigation measures to stop the spread of the virus. This includes being denied personal protective equipment, proper social distancing, and isolation plans for those who test positive. According to the claim, the facilities are in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and state and federal regulations regarding inspections and investigations of nursing homes.

Additionally, the claim is alleging that at least one facility in the state is conducting biomedical experiments on residents and using the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine under the guise of a clinical trial.

Doing More to Protect Nursing Home Residents

Based on the infection and death rates in nursing homes, it’s clear that more should have been done to protect residents and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With nondescript guidance and little information from the state on how to handle the crisis early on, it’s important that facilities are aware of what they can do now and in the future to protect residents.

According to Ann Torregrossa, executive director of the PA Health Funders Collaborative, there are three important steps long-term nursing home facilities need to take to contain the spread of viruses and protect vulnerable residents:

  • Require residents be tested for COVID-19 prior to admittance
  • Conduct periodic rapid testing of everyone in the facility when residents or staff test positive
  • Create Rapid Response Teams at local hospitals to provide personal protective equipment, infectious disease expertise, testing, and personnel to infected nursing homes

Seek Justice for Your Loved One With Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco

If you have a family member in a nursing home and they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be able to participate in the lawsuit. The PA Department of Health needs to be held accountable for their negligence, and your loved one deserves justice.

To learn if your circumstances make you eligible to participate, schedule a free consultation with Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco today. We’ll review what your loved one has been through and help you decide how best to proceed to protect their future. We can also guide you through the process in the event you’ve lost your loved one from complications due to the virus. Contact us today to learn more.

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