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Breaking Down The Law: What liability do nursing homes have amid pandemic?

Last week, a nursing home in New Jersey was reported to have 17 dead residents in body bags after police responded to an anonymous tip.

All 17 deaths were reportedly due to the Coronavirus.

The facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, N.J., is reported to have had 70 deaths among its over 400 residents, with many more residents and workers presumed to be ill with the virus.

Workers had anonymously complained of a lack of staff and protective equipment, including masks.

As more nursing homes are reporting high rates of infections and death, many are wondering what can be done to stop outbreaks among the most vulnerable in these nursing homes.

Here to discuss the issue and the potential for similar outbreaks here in Nevada is attorney Matt Hoffmann.

Thanks, etc.

1. Let’s start with the New Jersey nursing home. How is it possible to have so many deaths without anyone knowing about it? Don’t these things have to be reported?

- Well, that’s the problem with this home in New Jersey.

- Normally if a death occurs, the relatives are informed and the body is sent to a mortuary.

- And if the death is due to a sentinel event, meaning an accident or medical error, it has to be reported to the State.

- But what happened here is people died, nobody was informed, and the bodies were stored in a small, on-site morgue meant to hold just a few bodies at most. And they had 17.

- What’s really troubling is mortality rate from Coronavirus in nursing homes, particularly in New Jersey.

- They’ve had 70 Coronavirus deaths just from this one facility.

2. Obviously people in nursing homes are older and in ill health - but what is it that is causing these massive outbreaks within nursing homes? Aren’t they somewhat like medical facilities and shouldn’t they be safer than being at home?

- What’s been exposed with these tragedies is the reality of the nursing home business.

- I can tell you that these facilities constantly have trouble with staffing; and most use Agency nurses to fill the gaps.

- But agency nurses, who work for an outside company, will often work at several different nursing homes on any given day or week.

- So what happened in New Jersey is you have nurses traveling from one facility to another, spreading the infection.

- And then you have the nursing homes ill-equipped with protective gear to help prevent the spread of the virus.

- So it’s just a complete disaster, where you have the very staff responsible for caring for these older, sick people walking around spreading the disease within the facility and then to outside facilities, probably without even knowing they’re infected.

- And in New Jersey, they estimate about 40% of the state’s more than 4,000 deaths from the Coronavirus have occurred in nursing homes.

- 40%

- That’s just an outrageous number.

3. So what can people do if they have loved ones in nursing homes to help protect them?

- That’s what makes this so difficult - what can you do?

- Even if you have a Power of Attorney over your loved one, you can’t enter the facilities.

- I think the most proactive thing to do is communicate with the facility; ask questions about what they are doing; do they have enough safety equipment; are they monitoring employees to make sure they are not showing symptoms; are they adequately staffed; do they utilize Agency nurses; if so, is it an exclusive contract with their facility or do the agency nurses visit other facilities.

- These are all reasonable questions to ask.

- And if you are not satisfied with the answers, report the situation to the Department of Health and Human Services; and if all else fails, do whatever you can to get them to a different facility.