Infection Control Issues at NY Nursing Homes with COVID Deaths

An investigation by USA Today found that of 88 New York nursing homes with reported COVID-19 deaths (as of May 1), 51 had previously received citations from health inspectors for violations of infection control regulations. A few days after this investigation, New York officials released findings that 353 nursing homes in the state had reported 4,813 confirmed or presumed deaths from COVID-19, comprising about one-fourth of the state’s COVID-related fatalities. This aligns with national figures, according to USA Today, which found that “COVID-19-related illnesses in nursing homes account for about a quarter of deaths in the US.”

Many nursing homes have long suffered from infection control issues, with state and federal inspectors identifying violations at homes across the state. USA Today describes a 2017 inspection of Carillon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in Long Island, which found that the nursing home failed to ensure that “an incidence of a communicable disease was reported to the state Department of Health” as required. In that incidence, five residents suffered from scabies, but the facility’s director of nursing did not report the disease. “Now,” USA Today states, “it has reported 30 deaths from COVID-19.”

Another nursing home, Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation in Goshen, was cited in 2017 when an inspector observed that two nursing aides failed to clean their gloves when they were “cleaning multiple residents’ hands during lunch and subsequently serving meals.” Another citation described a nurse who did not wear gloves while handling a resident’s medication, and administered to a resident medication “that had fallen onto a cart.” Today, according to USA Today, that nursing home has suffered 25 coronavirus-related deaths.

A third nursing home with health code violations, described by USA Today: Staten Island’s Carmel Richmond Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, which was cited in 2016 after an inspector observed a nursing assistant failing to removing his gloves and washing his hands after he provided incontinent care to a resident. According to the report, this assistant “used the same soiled gloves to adjust the bed linens, touch the resident’s hand and attach side rail pads to both side rails.” Now, this nursing home has reported 45 deaths from COVID-19.

Experts describe many reasons nursing homes may suffer high COVID-19 fatality rates, including understaffing, lack of adequate supplies (such as medication and personal protective equipment), and a lack of adequate training. One infectious diseases expert told USA Today that nursing homes “do not have the same expertise and equipment” required to isolate COVID-19 patients that hospitals do. “A hospital is much more used to have multiple patients in isolation,” this person, Dr. Hudson Garrett Jr., said. “Many [long-term care] facilities did not even have N95 masks.”

On May 8, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new executive order requiring that nursing homes test all staff two coronavirus tests per week, and report positive cases to the state by the next day.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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