The novel coronavirus has proven to be difficult to contain in our country, and nursing homes are not exempt from this. Even though there are methods to stop the spread of COVID-19, America has had a hard time properly implementing those methods and reducing the infection rate of our citizens. One of the most vulnerable populations, the elderly, have been exposed in their nursing homes.
But the problems that lead to residents of long-term care facilities becoming infected are far from new—nursing homes have had existing issues with containing viruses and other illnesses and keeping them from spreading through their facilities. Let’s take a look at some of the main shortcomings that these facilities have had that were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues in Nursing Homes Pre-COVID
Since COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus, nursing homes needed to be implementing all of their protocols to stop it from spreading through their facility and infecting vulnerable residents. However, they were unable to effectively implement these protocols because they haven’t been very successful in stopping the spread of contagious illnesses through their walls.
In 2019, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 40 percent of nursing homes in America had infection prevention and control deficiencies. The same report documents that half of these facilities had deficiencies cited in more than one year consecutively, which demonstrates that many of these nursing homes had persistent problems that went unresolved.
Even though these nursing homes have infection prevention protocols in place, they might not follow them as strictly or properly as they need to. On top of that, they might not have the staff or equipment available to ensure their residents don’t get sick. Here are some of the issues that COVID-19 showed existed in nursing homes even prior to the virus entering the facilities:
- Lack of proper PPE and other equipment
- Not enough space to separate infected residents
- Low staffing
- Lack of symptom screening
- Staff members needing multiple jobs and carrying disease from one facility to another
- Lack of janitorial staff
- Overworked staff without enough time to properly care for or clean up after patients
All of these problems worked together to enable COVID-19 to infect many nursing home residents, and since they are such a vulnerable population, many ended up dying because of these preventable shortcomings.
What Should Be Done Moving Forward
In the report mentioned above, each individual state was mentioned in how many nursing homes were evaluated for deficiencies, and how many were cited for having one or consistent deficiencies. In Mississippi, a total of 214 nursing homes were evaluated, and only 23 of those facilities were determined not to have any infection prevention and control deficiencies. 58 had deficiencies cited for one year, 52 were cited for multiple non-consecutive years, and 81 were cited for multiple consecutive years.
With this information, the next step is determining how to fix this problem. One of the first things that nursing homes did when the pandemic hit was to restrict visitors from coming into the facilities. This helped limit the amount of outside people who could bring the virus into the facility. But there are more things to be done to help prevent infection spreading in the future.
More funding, more staffing, and better screenings for disease can all help nursing homes and their staff better care for their residents and prevent the spread of disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend implementing better hygiene standards, having better PPE, and having more training for staff about sanitation and contaminated fields.
While the nursing homes can’t change their ineffective methods for containing COVID-19, they can work on fixing these problems for the future so that other residents do not have to suffer in the same ways that coronavirus patients did.
Our Attorneys Can Help You
If your loved one was in a nursing home that was affected by COVID-19, and you think their infection was caused by the negligence of the staff or facility management, then you could use the help of a Biloxi nursing home abuse lawyer from our firm. At Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law, we understand how difficult this situation is for you and your family, which is why we’re here to handle the legal side of things while you sort out the emotional healing.
Contact our office today so that we can discuss your options and how we can help you.