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Nursing Homes Are a Dangerous Place in a Pandemic

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Nursing homes in the United States have long suffered from their share of problems-ranging from unsanitary conditions to unsafe residences where elderly residents suffer from falls and infections due to neglect and lack of proper healthcare.  Of course, this is not to say this is true in all nursing homes.  However, many eldercare facilities are chronically understaffed and under financial strain.  The victims of such problems are the elderly who have been consigned to live their last years in places that are often isolating and unsafe.  This is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NY Times recently featured a nursing facility in the state of NY, Clove Lakes Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Staten Island.  Six months ago, 40 residents perished at the height of the pandemic.  Now, the facility faces an employee shortage as the same number of workers are being laid off. 

Staffing shortages, especially in eldercare facilities such as nursing homes, can be directly correlated to unsanitary conditions, bed sores, and falls that result in broken bones and tragic death for nursing home patients.  Budgetary shortfalls can also lead to poor lighting in residential quarters, hallways, and common areas that contribute to falls and injuries.  A lack of proper safety equipment such as handrails in restroom facilities, safety rails on beds, and non-slip flooring can be just as dangerous or deadly. 

These scenarios play out across the country and have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.  According to the NY Times’ article, ” The crisis is not unique to Clove Lakes. In an August survey of homes nationwide, more than half said they were operating at a loss, and nearly three-quarters said they could not last another year if things did not change. “It’s horrible,” said Lorri Senk, the administrator at Clove Lakes, where revenues have fallen by half, even with the infection rate now close to zero, because patients are afraid to go there. “People are being told by the doctors at the hospital, ‘Don’t take your mother to a nursing home.’”

In any crisis, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the most.  The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.  Nursing homes, short-staffed and under-equipped in normal times, have suffered this year.  The pandemic has shown the spotlight on the situation in New York in particular.  NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for his actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and nursing homes.  According to a local CBS affiliate, ” The state has reported some 6,600 victims died from COVID-19 in nursing and adult homes. But, the family members contend it is a much higher number and blame Albany for forcing sick patients back into the facilities at the height of the pandemic.”

If a loved one has suffered a serious injury while residing in a nursing home or eldercare facility, call our law firm for a free, confidential evaluation. 

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