Outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 have occurred at nursing homes across the country because they were poorly trained and prepared to handle contagious diseases. In many states, more than half of the outbreaks have been in long-term-care facilities. After shocking instances of nursing homes failing to disclose the existence and extent of COVID-19 cases within their facilities, the federal government will finally require nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives when residents or staff contract the illness. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a requirement that notification must come within 12 hours of a confirmed single case of COVID-19. Residents, families and representatives must also be told when three or more individuals develop respiratory symptoms within a 72-hour period. The new rules also require nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC is now attempting to build a nationwide database of the occurrence of the illness. The new rules also require nursing homes to detail measures the facility is taking to mitigate the spread of the disease. There are no authoritative numbers on fatalities, but estimates are in the tens of thousands. A report by The Wall Street Journal said more than 10,000 nursing home residents are confirmed to have died from COVID-19.
“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement announcing the new rules, which she described as an effort to provide “transparent and timely information to residents and their families.
The industry has been pushing for legal immunity from neglect, abuse, and criminal acts during the pandemic because of the stress and struggle of the front line caregivers. Perhaps frontline workers can be protected from simple negligence but not intentional abuse and criminal behavior and none of the corporation and management companies making millions should be granted immunity. They are the very reasons the frontline workers are unprepared for the virus and not protected because of lack of PPE. Those calls for immunity raise questions about accountability and whether poorly run nursing homes are being given another pass.
“Providing blanket immunity to nursing homes for any kind of substandard care, abuse, or neglect is an extremely poor and dangerous idea anytime, and particularly so in regard to COVID-19,” says Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, which advocates for nursing home residents.
The nursing homes are getting “total carte blanche to do as much or as little or whatever they want to do,” he says. “For the most part, it’ll be as little. And there’ll be no repercussions for even significant abject neglect.”