Coronavirus has struck nursing home patients and staff nationwide. However, what happened in Riverside, California on April 7 and 8 was still unprecedented. Five staff members at Magnolia Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center (“MRSNC”) tested positive for the virus, along with 34 of its 80 residents.
However, on April 7 and 8, few staff members were present – most did not show up to care for residents. MRSNC touts itself as one of the “finest skilled nursing facilities” in the city.
Because the staff was not there to help the residents, the nursing home required evacuation. On Tuesday, April 7, just one of 13 certified nursing assistants arrived for work, and nurses were brought in from Kaiser Permanente and Riverside University Health to assist the residents. When employees did not show up the following day, the decision to evacuate was made. Residents were taken by ambulance to other local facilities.
The entire evacuation process required 53 ambulances along with police and fire department assistance. Riverside County Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton sent out a plea for help among healthcare workers, assuring them they would receive personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and work in clean facilities, with malpractice insurance provided.
Rising to the Level of Abandonment
At this time, it is unclear why the staff did not appear for two days. Nationwide, employees are worried about their own exposure to their virus, lack of PPE, and exposing their loved ones. It was likely no coincidence that employees decided not to come to work just a few days after test results came in confirming a COVID-19 outbreak at MRSNC.
Riverside County Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser said he had not received complaints from staff members. He said the staff’s actions could “rise to the level of abandonment.” Noting that healthcare workers are frequently described as heroic during the pandemic, Kaiser pointed out that heroism right now means people staying at their posts and performing their duties. He said it is up to state regulators to determine whether these employees face repercussions for patient abandonment.
Riverside County COVID-19 Cases
As of April 9, Riverside County had 1,280 cases of coronavirus and 33 deaths. It ranks fourth in California in the number of cases and deaths, behind Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Clara. In Los Angeles County, the virus has been found at over 130 nursing homes and similar institutions, with 37 deaths to date in such facilities. The Los Angeles County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, has urged those families who are sheltering in place to consider bringing a relative in a skilled nursing facility home to take care of them.
Because of the large number of coronavirus cases affecting nursing homes, the Navy hospital ship Mercy has arrived in Los Angeles, and it may take on non-infected nursing home residents removed from coronavirus hot spots.
Other nursing homes have had evacuations because of staff shortages due to workers coming down with COVID-19, but this appears the first case of a deliberate effort by employees not to report to work.
The Mahany Law Team – Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers
We are actively investigating nursing home coronavirus cases. For those residents in private or nonprofit nursing homes, states typically give at least one year to bring a claim. (There may be special rules in government-operated facilities.)
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 for poor care, however. While some nursing homes have done a great job, others have allowed their facilities to become virtual death camps.
Although many courts have announced temporary closures, we remain working and are ready to investigate and prosecute bad nursing homes anywhere in the country. To learn more visit our special nursing home coronavirus information page. 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.)