Perhaps no population of people in the Commonwealth and around the country has experienced the horrors of COVID-19 in as devastating a way as the residents of nursing homes. These people are usually of advanced age and may already be dealing with severe health problems. Contracting COVID-19 can mean a death sentence to many nursing home residents.
Unfortunately, this has not resulted in the best level of care. In fact, the ownership groups of many nursing homes in the Commonwealth have sued the Department of Human Services for allegedly withholding vital funding. This funding could be used to hire more nurses, obtain better protective equipment, and properly quarantine residents that test positive.
A lack of proper care in nursing homes was already a major public health concern as well as a legal dilemma. With nursing homes now claiming that they have not received proper funding, it is likely that incidents of accentual injuries or even abuse may rise. A Montgomery County, PA, personal injury lawyer could help to provide more information about this lawsuit and the lack of funding’s potential impact on patient care. This includes helping nursing home residents and their families to protect their rights.
A Lawsuit Alleges the Illegal Withholding of COVID-19 Funds
Since the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 has posed a major threat to the residents of nursing homes. According to a December 8, 2020 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as of the published date, around 40,000 residents in the Commonwealth’s 1,300 nursing homes had contracted COVID-19. This number has continued to rise. Additionally, around 7,000 people had died as a consequence of this disease, about 60 percent of the total COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth.
Clearly, nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to this virus. In response, the federal government passed a Medicaid expansion intended to provide additional funding to nursing homes that accept Medicaid patients. In sum, the federal government provided a total of $153 million to the Commonwealth for distribution to nursing homes.
However, a lawsuit alleges that this distribution never occurred. A collection of nursing homes sued the Department of Human Services in state court, alleging a failure to provide these payments as required by law.
Specifically, the owners of nursing homes have alleged that the Commonwealth diverted the $153 million that it received from the federal government to other programs. The nursing home owners argue that Commonwealth law requires the Department to distribute these funds as the federal government intended. The Commonwealth disagrees.
A Montgomery County personal injury lawyer could help individuals to better understand this lawsuit and its impact on the funding of nursing homes nationwide.
A Lack of Funding May Force Nursing Homes to Cut Back on Care or Close Entirely
Most nursing homes rely on significant financial aid from the Medicaid program. Not only does Medicaid provide funding directly to nursing homes, but it also assists many residents with paying their bills. As a result, it is easy to see how a missing $153 million could have a devastating impact on nursing homes during times of normal operation.
Of course, these are not normal times. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit nursing homes especially hard. With residents already in frail health and especially vulnerable to the respiratory conditions that COVID-19 can inflict, nursing homes must take special care to provide protection.
At the most basic level, they should perform regular tests of both residents and staff. They should perform deep cleans of the facilities whenever possible. If a resident contracts the disease, they require intensive medical care on-site, and staff must quarantine them from the other residents. Each of these additional procedures cost money.
It is no surprise that many facilities claim to be unable to cover these costs. According to the article, many facilities are complaining of both a lack of funding and staff fatigue. They continue to state that the current situation is not sustainable and that closures or collapses may be imminent.
Every Nursing Home Has a Duty Under the Law to Protect Each Resident from Harm
It is an unfortunate fact that injuries and illnesses in nursing homes are common. This was true even before the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020. According to Commonwealth law, each facility has a duty to protect its residents. A failure to provide this protection through either abuse or neglect that resulted in an injury gives those residents and their families the ability to demand compensation through a lawsuit.
The additional strains of COVID-19 are bound to make these incidents more frequent. Fatigued and stressed staff members are more likely to make mistakes. They may even take out their frustrations on vulnerable patients. In addition, the sheer number of patients with COVID-19 symptoms will drain the resources of the nursing home, leaving other patients potentially overlooked.
This is to say nothing of the potential liability that may arise if a resident contracts COVID-19. While the contracting of diseases is normally an act of God that does not justify a lawsuit, a demonstrated failure on the part of a nursing home to properly quarantine residents who test positive may open that facility to liability.
So too could a failure to thoroughly test staff or train nurses as to how to recognize common symptoms and risk factors. A Montgomery County personal injury lawyer could help the residents of nursing homes and their families to understand their rights during the pandemic.
The Commonwealth’s Withholding of COVID-19 Funds Has Created Problems Across the Board
COVID-19 has placed everyone in the country under substantial stress. Perhaps no people are as vulnerable as residents in nursing homes. Congress provided an additional $153 million in Medicaid funding to help, but nursing homes claim that this money never arrived.
As a result, nursing homes have sued the Commonwealth for the delivery of these funds. While the outcome of this lawsuit remains uncertain, the impact of the lack of funding on nursing homes is not. A lack of funds places residents in these facilities in danger.
This includes increasing the chances of contracting COVID-19 as well as exposure to potential accidents and abuse from fatigued staff and nurses. A Montgomery County personal injury lawyer could provide more information about this lawsuit and help residents and their family members to protect their rights during this difficult time.