In a letter dated May 28, 2020 addressed to the leaders of the U.S. Senate, 250 organizations throughout the United States that advocate on behalf of the 1.3 million nursing home residents in the United States implored the U.S. Senate “to strongly oppose granting immunity to nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic,” citing data from 38 states compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that there have been over 35,000 deaths due to the virus in long-term care facilities, which represents 42% of all deaths in those states.
The signatories to the letter warn, “Stripping residents of their right to hold nursing homes accountable for substandard care will put more residents at risk and inevitably result in increased resident deaths. We implore you to keep this fundamental right in place and to consider other solutions to promote the safety and welfare of residents.”
The letter explains that “[j]udicial recourse discourages current and future bad practices by nursing homes and helps bring about positive health outcomes for nursing home residents. By allowing nursing homes to operate without this important check, we sacrifice one of the most effective tools in ensuring our fellow citizens are not neglected and harmed.”
The letter continues, “Due to lockdowns, residents are living and dying in nursing homes isolated from their families and absent any outside oversight. In truth, very few people, other than staff, know what is happening in nursing homes at this time. Essentially, the only mechanism available for a nursing home resident to hold facilities responsible for substandard care is judicial recourse. By removing this safety net, nursing homes will have little to no oversight.”
The signatories explain to Senate leaders, “As longtime advocates for nursing home residents, it is evident that this crisis in nursing homes was foreseeable. For years, nursing home owners and operators have cut corners and understaffed facilities to maximize profits. A recent New York Times article directly ties profit seeking in nursing homes to a steep decline in quality of care. Infection control, disease prevention, and disaster planning are at the core of any quality nursing home’s mission. We have always known how devastating illnesses like the flu can be to nursing home residents, who live in close quarters and have pre-existing conditions that make even the common cold deadly. Yet, year after year nursing homes have been cited for poor infection control procedures and substandard care. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has exposed just how deadly inadequate preparation, poor care, and striving for ever increasing profits can be to nursing home residents.” The letter provides specific examples in support of its allegations.
The letter concludes: “It would be perverse to ask facility residents to pay with their lives for the woefully insufficient emergency preparedness and substandard care of nursing homes, while allowing nursing homes themselves to face no repercussions for their egregious behavior. Legal liability has always functioned as a safeguard for nursing home residents by incentivizing nursing homes to provide quality care and comply with laws and regulations. It has served as a silent overseer of nursing homes who know that individuals in this country will not stand for neglect and inadequate care. By providing immunity, Congress would be placing nursing home residents in jeopardy at a time when they are the Americans suffering most from the Covid-19 outbreaks. As a nation, we cannot tolerate rewarding nursing homes for years of cost cutting and profit maximizing by relieving them of responsibility. We urge you to reject immunity, and instead send a message that our country will not tolerate negligent care of our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. They deserve better.”
If your loved one contracted the coronavirus while in a nursing home in the United States and died as a result, you should promptly contact a nursing home coronavirus lawyer in your state who may investigate your coronavirus nursing home death claim for you and represent your loved one’s estate and family in a nursing home coronavirus death case, if appropriate.
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