A recently released report by New York Attorney General Letitia James suggests that testing failures at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic may have put nursing home residents at increased risk of infection from the novel coronavirus. At the pandemic’s outset in March 2020, the report notes, there was limited Covid-19 testing capacity, and once many nursing homes received tests they nonetheless experienced delays in receiving results. “The lack of testing increased the risk of COVID-19 infection of residents and staff,” the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) report ultimately finds, especially with respect to asymptomatic cases.
The report goes on to state that on March 21, 2020, the state’s Department of Health instructed nursing homes in downstate New York “to treat all residents who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms as if they had been diagnosed with COVID-19 for purposes of infection control protocols.” One problem with this protocol, the report suggests, is that nursing homes with insufficient testing capacity would not detect asymptomatic cases, meaning people who were infected with the coronavirus would be able to transmit it to staff and residents. In such cases, residents were “at greater risk of harm from not receiving treatment and/or close monitoring for changes in condition,” and there was an “increased risk of transmission to others in the facility.”
In one instance, the OAG states, it received a “credible allegation” from the family member of a resident at a for-profit nursing home in upstate New York that “the facility responded that due to the limited number of test kits at the facility, it could only test her father if he exhibited symptoms.” When her father later experienced Covid-19 symptoms, the nursing home transferred him to a hospital, where he received a positive Covid-19 test result.
The OAG’s report also describes “anecdotal support that staff infected with COVID-19 in certain instances worked within nursing homes during periods that they were undiagnosed and asymptomatic, thereby increasing the risk of infection and harm to residents.” In one instance, a facility manager at a non-profit New York City nursing home told the OAG that a Licensed Practical Nurse at the facility “worked on a unit with over 40 residents until March 14, when he stopped working, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and later died.” According to the report, one-fifth of this nursing home facility’s staff were out sick by March 21. Between March 22 and March 29, seven residents at the nursing home were reported dead from Covid-19. In the following week, 26 Covid-19 deaths were reported at the nursing home. The nursing home reported in April that it was experiencing Covid-19 test turnaround times of 36 hours.
The New York Attorney General Office’s report on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in New York’s nursing homes can be found here.
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.