COVID-19 Infections in New Mexico Nursing Homes
Helping Nursing Home Residents and Families After a Tragic Outbreak
As the number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico continue to rise, many are rightfully worried for those most vulnerable: our elderly. COVID-19 thrives in tightly packed and close-knit communities, which is why it spreads so easily in cities. Additionally, it seems to be impacting the older members of our country more than any other group. Both of these facts mean that nursing homes and long-term-care facilities are at a high risk for an outbreak if the staff does not handle the situation properly.
Now, in this world crisis, the question must be asked: is your nursing home doing all it can to protect your loved one? If it is not and, because of someone’s negligence, residents suffer from COVID-19, then you may have a claim. The attorneys at Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP understand your fear. We have spent years dedicated to helping New Mexico nursing home residents and their families receive justice for neglect and abuse. Contact us at (903) 290-1774. Our attorneys are available to answer your questions in this trying time.
CDC Guidelines for COVID-19
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released nursing home guidelines on how to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 within their facilities. These policies must be taken seriously by staff at long-term-care facilities. Caregiving guidelines include important steps such as:
- Educating all staff on prevention of COVID-19
- Educating all staff on the signs of COVID-19
- Using alternate methods for visitation (such as video calls)
- Requesting that visitors and staff immediately inform the facility if they show signs of COVID-19
- Requesting that residents immediately inform the facility if they show signs of COVID-19
- Providing all residents with sanitation equipment
- Providing all residents with adequate personal protective equipment (such as masks and gloves)
- Dedicating a section of the facility to monitor/care for residents suffering from COVID-19
- Requiring all staff to remain home if they show signs of COVID-19
Each of these steps could mean a life saved and skipping even one step puts all residents at risk for contracting the illness. Nursing homes have a responsibility to keep their residents safe and healthy. If they fail in that responsibility, especially when their residents are at a higher risk than ever, then they should be held responsible.
Additional Guidelines for CMS-Funded Homes
Facilities that receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid are regulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2016, the CMS laid out very specific regulations in regard to nursing homes and long-term-care facilities on what they are required to provide for their residents.
Section § 483.24 says:
“We are requiring that each resident receive and the facility provide the necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, consistent with the resident’s comprehensive assessment and plan of care.”
This means that nursing homes under the CMS must do everything they can to provide a safe and healthy home for their residents. In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, that certainly includes doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the illness.
The regulations go on to include requirements for facilities to “develop an Infection Prevention and Control Program (IPCP) that includes an Antibiotic Stewardship Program and designate at least one Infection Preventionist (IP)” in Section § 483.80. If your loved one is living in a CMS-regulated facility, then that nursing home is required to have a program in place for dealing with and controlling infectious diseases.
For non-CMS-regulated homes, the laws are a little less clear; however, not following CDC guidelines in the face of such a dangerous disease could be grounds for negligence.
Is Your Nursing Home is Liable for a COVID-19 Infection?
Elderly neglect is defined by the CDC as “failure by a caregiver or other responsible person to protect an elder from harm, or the failure to meet needs for essential medical care… to such an extent that harm results or is likely to result.” All nursing homes, whether controlled by the CMC or not, have a responsibility to keep their residents healthy and safe.
Given how deadly COVID-19 is to the elderly, a facility failing to follow CDC guidelines could certainly be considered neglect, especially medically speaking. A nursing home should do all they can to protect their residents. If a home chooses to not follow the guidelines laid out for them and people die or suffer as a result, they should be held accountable.
Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe
While nursing homes and similar facilities have a responsibility to keep residents safe, you should also consider your own responsibilities. While it is natural to want to check on your loved one during such troubling times, you should keep their wellbeing in mind. To help keep your elderly loved ones safe, you should:
- Avoid visiting them in person. Try calling them instead.
- Ask the facility on what steps they are taking to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.
- Find out if your facility operates under CMS and whether they are following the required regulations.
- Ask your facility what you can do to help and if they are accepting donations like masks or sanitization products.
- Immediately report to the facility if you are showing signs of illness, as you may have inadvertently carried it into the facility during your last visit.
Compassionate Legal Aid in Troubling Times
We all must come together to help lift each other up during this pandemic. If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and you suspect neglect, we want to do our part to help. At Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP, we have years of experience fighting on behalf the elderly and their family in New Mexico during difficult claims of abuse and neglect. We have seen how traumatic it is to be mistreated by a nursing home that was meant to take care of you. Call our New Mexico nursing home attorneys today at (903) 290-1774.