The New York Health Department confirmed an antibiotic-resistant ‘superbug’ was found at Palm Gardens Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brooklyn. State health officials say that Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus infected 38 patients at the Brooklyn nursing home. Since arriving in the United States in 2015, 800 Americans have been diagnosed with C. auris. According to public health officials, the victims of this contagious disease are typically elderly and more than half die from the disease within 90 days.
Public health officials believe that Maria Davila may have brought the ‘super bug’ into the nursing home. After arriving at the nursing home several years ago, Davila suffered from recurrent bacterial infections – which were treated with heavy doses of powerful antibiotics. During those trips in-and-out of the hospital, bacteria that responded to the medication was eradicated. C. Auris, however, is resistant to antibiotics and therefore followed Davila back to the nursing home. The contagious disease then spread to 38 other residents.
According to the New York Health Department, Palm Gardens is a poorly rated nursing home with only two stars out of five. In 2018, a health department investigation found that the death of two ventilator patients was caused by staffers who “forgot to turn the patient’s ventilators back on,” according to The New York Times. While it is impossible to know whether appropriate protocols would have prevented the spread of this contagious fungus, the New York Times article describes a reporter’s account of unsanitary, unsafe conditions at the nursing home. According to the article, nurses “moved in and out of rooms without the required protection.”
Because of their weakened immune systems and close contact with other infectious individuals, nursing homes can be breeding grounds for illness. Further, while short staffing and poor care are problems faced by the entire industry, the problems are more acute at nursing homes with Medicaid patients. Since Medicaid pays higher rates for sicker patients, short-staffed nursing homes are also likelier to admit sick patients – who may not know exactly which bacterial infection is making them sick. Taken altogether, Medicaid patients appear to be uniquely vulnerable to the rise of superbugs at nursing homes. With a growing elderly population and a global increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the number of deaths caused by ‘super bugs’ will only grow higher until the state either enacts stricter regulations or toughens enforcement of its current nursing home abuse laws.