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Coronavirus Lays Bare Nursing Home Industry’s Chronic Issues

Coronavirus Lays Bare Nursing Home Industry’s Chronic Issues

The Life Care Center of Kirkland, near Seattle, is an epicenter of Covid-19 in the U.S. As of March 25, at least 35 people associated with the facility have died from the disease. Two-thirds of the center’s residents were infected, along with 47 employees, according to the New York Times

The Life Care Center of Kirkland is just one of more than 200 such facilities owned by Life Care Centers of America (“LCCA”). This Tennessee-based company is the nation’s largest privately held nursing home company. LCCA has facilities in 28 states. Its annual revenue exceeds $3 billion. 

In Woodbridge, New Jersey, all 94 residents of St. Joseph’s Senior Nursing Home are presumed positive for the virus. Across the country, nursing home residents and caretakers are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. While this tragic story continues unfolding, many of those familiar with the nursing home industry are not surprised, and see the coronavirus laying bare many long-standing problems. 

Staffing Crisis

Nursing home workers are notoriously underpaid, and most do not receive benefits. Low pay has long been part of the reason there is a chronic staffing shortage, as well as high turnover. Many workers find better conditions in retail and fast-food jobs. Along with a shortage, there are far too many inexperienced workers. Overworked employees, pulling long shifts, may neglect residents or fail to respond to their needs. 

When low-paid, uninsured workers get sick, they go to work anyway. They then spread their illnesses to the vulnerable people in their care. 

The coronavirus has added to the industry’s already critical staffing shortage. Due to school closings, many nursing home workers must stay home and care for their own children. 

Poor Infection Control

It is not news that poor infection control practices at many nursing homes mean that such diseases run rampant. Nearly 2/3rds of U.S. nursing homes, including those receiving relatively high rankings, were found deficient in this area. Such facilities were cited for at least one such deficiency over the prior four years. If the higher-ranking facilities are troublesome, the lower-ranking facilities are terrible. Approximately 80 percent of low-ranking facilities were cited for poor infection control.

Many of the cases are truly appalling and include nurse’s aides failing to wash their hands after cleaning the buttocks of residents, and then going on to other duties. 

Again, poor infection control measures are another reason for the rapid spread of coronavirus in nursing homes. 

Federal Investigation

A federal investigation of conditions at the Kirkland facility by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) reveals critical issues affecting the spread of the virus. The investigation found that low paid workers were a primary source of transmission. Some of these workers were employed at more than one nursing home, so they spread the virus in different facilities. 

According to the report, the nursing home failed to notify regional authorities after experiencing a rapid rise in respiratory illnesses. Nursing homes in Washington are supposed to notify authorities within 24 hours if more than one resident exhibits flu symptoms. 

Life Care Center also had no “backup plan” when their primary doctor got sick. 

The CMS announced it is working in conjunction with the CDC to identify nursing home facilities are at special risk for coronavirus breakouts. Unfortunately, given the dismal history of the nursing home industry, they will not prove hard to find.

The Mahany Law Team – Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers

We are currently investigating coronavirus nursing home deaths across the United States. Although many courts are temporarily closed, we are working nights and weekend to bring justice to families who lost a loved one because of poor care.

Our prayers are with those in nursing homes, their families and the brave women and men who go to work every day in our skilled nursing facilities. Many of them are overworked and lack the test kits and protective gear they require. That is no excuse, however, for allowing COVID-19 to spread through facilities like wildfire.  

For more information, visit our cornerstone nursing home coronavirus information page. It is constantly updated. To see if you have a case, contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 833-201-1555.  (Cases accepted nationwide - we have lawyers throughout the United States.)

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