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Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in the Wake of the COVID-19 Facility Lockdown

Posted on Monday, June 1st, 2020

When nursing homes and assisted living facilities restricted visitation in an attempt to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), concerned families were left unable to check on their loved one’s care and safety. It’s become apparent that residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with long-term care residents accounting for at least one-fifth of all COVID-19 fatalities nationwide.

As reports of COVID-19 fatalities at senior care facilities continue to rise, lawsuits are following as cases of nursing home negligence, personal injury, and even wrongful death are being brought to light. Nursing Home Abuse Expert Attorney Steve Watrel says inexcusable accounts of falls with fractures and head injuries, bedsores, malnutrition and dehydration are already being reported.  Watrel insists that that the current crisis is not an excuse for failure to provide proper care to residents.

Families Left In The Dark

Initially, the Florida Department of Health refused to release information regarding confirmed cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in their nursing homes and assisted living facilities, stating it would be a HIPAA violation. However, Nursing Home Abuse Expert Attorney Steve Watrel says the health care privacy law, commonly known as HIPAA, does not prevent states from releasing the names of providers with outbreaks. Instead, it only protects information that would identify that specific individual.

After more than a month after the COVID-19 outbreak began, Florida’s Department of Health finally released the list of senior care facilities with reported COVID-19 cases. Claims against these facilities quickly started coming in stating that certain facilities lacked adequate emergency response plans and failed to quarantine residents and staff in a timely manner, among other complaints. To see the list of more than 20 facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Northeast Florida, click here.

Asking For Immunity From Errors of Negligence

Now, Florida’s Governor is being asked to protect hospitals and nursing home associations from lawsuits because of actions that occurred, or didn’t occur, during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the proposal to give blanket immunity to nursing homes and other assisted living facilities from legal liability relating to the Coronavirus is being faced with fierce opposition due to fears that this could start a precedent for covering up errors of negligence.

“The court system exists for a reason,” says Watrel. “The court system exists to ferret out meritorious from non-meritorious claims. And broad brushes of immunity are not only not appropriate right now but could lead to an increase of injury and death. Because, unfortunately, the reality of human nature is, without the threat of accountability, responsibility dwindles.”

Coker Law Can Help

Coker Law understands how important it is to make sure your loved ones are safe and secure, especially in their elderly age. If you are concerned and are not able to reach your loved one, if the facility is not following up with you, or if you suspect that your loved one is in distress, or once you are able to visit with your loved one you find they have not been cared for properly you can contact the following agencies who are responsible for regulating nursing homes and responding to complaints during this time:

  • Department of Children and Families (DCF) 1-800-962-2873 or myflfamilies.com
  • Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) 1-888-419-3456 or myflorida.com

Although it’s unknown if nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be protected from this broad immunity and the extent of it, you need to be prepared. If you believe that your loved one has been mistreated, injured, or passed away due to COVID-19 or neglect or abuse, Coker Law is here to help you navigate through these uncertain, difficult times. You can download a free copy of The Caregiver’s Guide to walk you through how to choose a nursing home in Florida and what to do if you suspect abuse or neglect.

Click here to set up a free consultation with Nursing Home Abuse Expert Attorney Steve Watrel. We continue to work from our virtual offices and our attorneys and support staff remain available at any time through phone calls, emails and video chat at (904) 356-6071.

 Our thoughts are with all those affected by the Coronavirus, and we wish to express our utmost gratitude to the healthcare professionals working tirelessly to care for our community