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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

covid-19-4982910_640-150x150Late Saturday there was a call for body bags and by Monday, the police received an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.

Once police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue, intended to hold no more than four people.

The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.

For all the others, the cause of death is unknown.

Of the patients who remain at the homes, housed in two buildings, 76 have tested positive for the virus; 41 staff members, including an administrator, are sick with COVID-19, according to county health records shared Wednesday with a federal official.

This nursing home is certainly not alone. Coronavirus has killed thousands of residents at facilities struggling with staff shortages, increasingly sick patients and a lack of personal protective gear.

Andover Subacute has beds for 700 patients and records show it is the state’s largest licensed facility.  

Even before the pandemic, the nursing home had struggled. Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II recently got a one-star rating of “much below average” from Medicare for staffing levels, inspections and patient care.

Reports indicate that the nursing home is overwhelmed by the death toll and has requested help from the governor’s office to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

The state Department of Health sent two shipments containing 3,200 surgical masks, 1,400 N95 masks and 10,000 gloves to the nursing homes, according to a spokeswoman. 

The nursing home has told local health officials that they are housing sick patients on separate wings or floors, Danielson said. And local residents have been gathering supplies to donate to the nursing home.

Most of the state’s nursing homes have reported at least one case of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday had infected 6,815 patients of long-term care facilities in New Jersey. At least 45 of the 351 coronavirus-related deaths announced on Wednesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

Thirteen of the bodies discovered on Monday at the Andover facility were moved to a refrigerated truck outside a hospital in nearby Newton. A funeral home had made arrangements to pick up the other four.

The number of deaths in nursing homes from coronavirus is rising by the day. Due to the fact that older adults and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable to the virus, nursing homes and elderly assisted living facilities must follow infection control protocols as well as guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a nursing home or assisted living facility breaches this duty during a pandemic, a nursing home neglect lawsuit could result. 

A pandemic is no reason to let safety and security measures slide, especially among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are among the most at-risk populations for contracting the deadly coronavirus. As such, nursing homes across the United States have failed to take swift actions to protect their employees and residents during the COVID-19 outbreak and can be held liable for their negligence.

Due to nursing homes failing to contain certain areas, many sick and elderly residents quickly contracted coronavirus and spread the disease to others in their nursing homes. In the majority of these cases, the spread of the disease could have been prevented with common-sense guidelines, like social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the usage of face masks.

Sadly, many nursing home residents came in contact with COVID-19. Our Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know this would not have happened if nursing homes had followed pandemic guidelines. 

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veteran-2698167_640-150x150A military veteran who contracted coronavirus in mid-March at a Florida VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines has died, state officials confirmed Saturday.

The deceased veteran, who was not identified, was one of two men living at the nursing home for veterans in Pembroke Pines who were hospitalized last month after they tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. They were transferred to a local hospital.

The two residents at the Alexander Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home were tested after they showed signs of a low-grade fever, according to officials. They have been the only veterans at the state’s seven veteran nursing homes and domiciliary facilities who have contracted the disease since the coronavirus outbreak in Florida last month.

With more coronavirus test results rolling in, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among veterans at the Miami VA hospital has more than doubled to 36 as of Saturday, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records. One of those veterans, a man in his 90s, died last week, according to the Miami VA officials.

About half of those patients are being treated at the downtown Miami VA hospital and the other half are quarantined at home, records show.

The Miami VA hospital now surpasses the Orlando VA facility, with 34 positive COVID-19 patients, for the most coronavirus infections in Florida.

Statewide, 104 veterans have tested positive for the viral disease at federal VA hospitals as of Saturday, up more than 30 percent this past week.

That figure, however, represents less than 1 percent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, according to Florida Department of Health records. As of Tuesday, there have been 13,629 positive test results and 254 deaths in Florida due to the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The 372-bed Miami VA hospital, which serves 58,000 veterans in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, has also had four staff members test positive for the viral infection, and the employees are all in isolation, mitigating further risk of transmission to other patients and staff, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Miami VA hospital was among dozens of veterans’ facilities nationwide recently cited by a federal inspector general for failing to maintain adequate equipment and supplies, including critical N95 masks for healthcare workers. The reality is, hospitals in and outside the VA system are reporting shortages of the N95 masks as well as traditional surgical masks.

On Monday, Miami VA officials started requiring employees to use and reuse surgical masks for one week, unless they are treating patients with COVID-19 or their masks become soiled. In those instances, they can ask supervisors for a replacement.

“These masks are expected to be used for a week at a time, longer if possible,” Miami VA Healthcare System Director Kalautie JangDhari told staff in an email Sunday that was updated with the same message Wednesday. “Masks may be removed while eating or drinking, but must be immediately put back on.”

Despite the new policy, Miami VA healthcare workers say surgical masks are not as thick or effective as the N95 masks that were found to be in short supply at the hospital by federal inspectors during a visit last month. 

Sadly, nursing homes are habitually understaffed. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, staff shortages are even worse. However, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are known to keep resident to staff ratios high, and staff numbers low, in an effort to boost profits. These facilities are notorious for placing profits over people, which can ultimately lead to serious injuries and death.

The staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not always properly trained on infection control measures, which means they are often unaware of the policies and procedures to prevent infection. It has been documented that Florida nursing homes have struggled with infection control. There have been repeated instances of workers failing to wash their hands as they move between patients.

The CDC has released new regulations for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing home and assisted living facilities, which include:

  • Implementing symptom screening policies
  • Restricting visitors and nonessential personnel
  • Active screening of health care personnel, including documenting respiratory symptoms and temperature
  • Training staff on infection control
  • Restricting resident movement and group activities

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ball-2585603_640-150x150A nursing home in Baker County that saw a sudden spike of 10 coronavirus cases said the illness was bought into the facility from someone who was recently moved to the facility.

The Macclenny Nursing and Rehab Center suddenly found that 10 patients in the facility had been infected with COVID-19 as of Thursday. Only one other case of the infection had been reported in the county prior to the outbreak in the nursing home, the Florida Department Health data showed on the coronavirus dashboard.

Susan Kaar, vice president of compliance and quality management for the nursing home’s owning company Southern Healthcare Management LLC, said the facility’s first confirmed case was a resident who was admitted to the center after being at a local hospital. While monitoring residents, the center noticed others displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 and tested them. The virus spread rather quickly. All victims of coronavirus were transferred to a local hospital. 

As a proactive and preventative measure, all patients and staff were tested for the virus. This is when the additional cases were found. 

It is unclear how many of the 10 victims were elderly patients and how many were staff. 

The facility says it is collaborating with the local Department of Health. .

Baker County Commission Chair James Bennett Friday said county first responders have handled the situation and the jurisdiction is taking the outbreak in stride.

As of Monday, the DOH coronavirus dashboard said Baker County had 12 victims of the illness with no deaths. The dashboard indicates the age range of the 12 victims is 24 to 97. 

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is at 12,350, as of Monday. The number of residents that have tested positive for coronavirus are 11,961. The number of hospital admissions are 1,555 and the number of deaths are 221. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes are experiencing a shortage of caregivers. Regulators are now allowing “personal care attendants” to perform more hands-on functions normally handled by certified nursing assistants, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration. In addition, the state of Florida is temporarily waiving a live-scan fingerprinting requirement for new employees who work with residents because fingerprinting vendors are shut down, according to an emergency order. Instead of fingerprinting, nursing homes are required to conduct background checks through several sources, according to the order. The waiver is in effect for 30 days and is due to expire April 27 unless extended.

Nursing Homes Still Have a Duty of  Care to Residents 

Florida nursing home and assisted living facilities owe their residents a duty of reasonable care to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Elderly nursing home residents and residents with underlying health issues are at an increased risk of dying from coronavirus. Because of this, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must take extra precautions to prevent coronavirus from spreading throughout their facilities. 

When nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not take the necessary steps to protect their residents from coronavirus, this could translate to negligence. Any residents who suffer harm or die from being infected with coronavirus have a legal right to bring a lawsuit against a negligent nursing home or assisted living facility.

Nursing Homes Must Take Extra Precautions

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), advises healthcare employees to follow very strict procedures for preventing the spread of viruses, including the following:

  • Staff should wear personal protective equipment
  • Staff should restrict visitors from coming into contact with infected patients
  • Staff should practice proper hand hygiene
  • Staff should prevent potentially infected or infected staff members from coming into contact with nursing home patients

Filing a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit After Contracting Coronavirus

Nursing homes that fail to take the necessary steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading can be held legally responsible for any suffering and death caused by the virus. Let’s say an infected nursing home staff member contracted the virus and exposed a resident to it after failing to wear protective gear around the resident. The resident may very well have a valid claim for a negligence lawsuit.

Contact Our Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton 

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care-4083343_640-150x150A Washington state nursing home that had at least 37 Covid-19 deaths faces a fine of more than $611,000, according to federal inspectors. 

The facility could also lose Medicare and Medicaid funding if it does not correct a plethora of deficiencies that led to the country’s first major outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

In a letter Wednesday to Life Care Center of Kirkland, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote that the nursing home failed to report an outbreak of respiratory illness to local authorities for two weeks as required by law, gave inadequate care to its residents during the outbreak and failed to provide 24-hour emergency doctor services.

The inspectors said that if the nursing home northeast of Seattle “does not correct all deficiencies and return to full compliance by September 16, 2020, then CMS will terminate your facility from participating in the Medicare/Medicaid program.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Life Care had not responded to a request for comment on the inspection findings and the penalties. The company has a right to appeal.

Inspectors levied a per-day civil penalty of $13,585 for the alleged deficiencies, dating to Feb. 12, around the time that the outbreak is thought to have taken hold, and continuing through March 27. They said the fine could be raised, or lowered, depending on the facility’s compliance with its correction plan.

In addition to losing its federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the facility also could lose its Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program and forfeit federal payment for the patients it admitted from March 21 to March 27.

Officials said that 129 residents, staff and visitors were infected with the coronavirus, which causes mild-to-moderate symptoms in most people but can prove fatal to the sick and elderly. As of March 23, 37 people associated with Life Care had died. 

In figures updated April 1, the county said that 2,496 people had tested positive for covid-19 in total and that 164 people had died due to covid-19 illness.

In a summary of its findings issued last month, CMS said inspectors had found that Life Care failed to swiftly notify regional authorities that it had a surge in respiratory infections, and continued to admit new patients and hold events such as a Mardi Gras party for dozens of residents and guests.

King County said it received notification of an increase in respiratory illnesses at the nursing home late on Feb. 27. Life Care has said it also left a voice message with county officials the day before. State law and county regulations required Life Care to report any suspected flu outbreak within 24 hours.

The Seattle region was the site of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. Authorities said on January 21 that a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, which neighbors King County, had tested positive after traveling from the Wuhan region of China, where the virus is thought to have originated. The man has since recovered.

Managers at the facility held quality-assurance meetings on Jan. 27 and Feb. 19, after the virus had already been detected in a neighboring county.

The home’s director, who joined the facility in January, told CMS inspectors: “Normally if there are concerns in infection control it would have been discussed in the QAPI meeting.”

CMS said infection concerns did not come up at either meeting, including the one in February, which was held days after Life Care said it posted signs warning visitors about the respiratory outbreak that staff thought was the flu.

“Further review of the 02/19/2020 monthly QAPI meeting minutes under the nursing section revealed: no reports of infection concerns at the facility,” the CMS report said.

The nursing home’s medical director, who was not identified, did not attend either of those meetings, the report states. Life Care’s “Infection Preventionist” nurse attended the January meeting, but did not attend the Feb. 19 meeting.

The executive director and two unidentified administrative staff members said “it was very chaotic” inside Life Care, as patients and dozens of staff members fell ill in February and March. Patient records were incomplete. Staff members were sick and unable to tend to the residents, they told inspectors.

“We were triaging residents as the residents were crashing, so there wasn’t going to be a lot of documentation,” one nursing home official, who was not identified in the report, told CMS inspectors.

CMS said the facility “did not have effective systems in place” to prevent the infection or respond to it. Life Care officials did not notify health-care authorities of the outbreak until Feb. 26 and did not have a 24-hour emergency physician or adequate staff to respond to the outbreak.

The facility lacked a “clear medical plan of action,” inspectors said, leading to a “systemic failure.”

Nearly a month after the outbreak, on March 7, inspectors said two certified nursing assistants, a man who had worked at Life Care for 15 years and a woman who had been there for four years, said they had not been trained to properly sanitize items with bleach wipes.

Also that day, inspectors spotted a laundry staff member who delivered clothing to residents in multiple rooms without changing her gown, gloves and other protective gear despite warning signs that patients might have been contagious.

CMS Guidance for Limiting the Transmission of COVID-19 for Nursing Homes 

CMS has released a guidance labeled as QSO-20-14-NH to respond to the threat posed by COVID-19.

For ALL facilities nationwide: Facilities should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only. Facilities are expected to notify potential visitors to defer visitation until further notice (through signage, calls, letters, etc.). 

Note: If a state implements actions that exceed CMS requirements, such as a ban on all visitation through a governor’s executive order, a facility would not be out of compliance with CMS’ requirements. In this case, surveyors would still enter the facility, but not cite for noncompliance with visitation requirements. 

For individuals that enter in compassionate situations (e.g., end-of-life care), facilities should require visitors to perform hand hygiene and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks. Decisions about visitation during an end of life situation should be made on a case by case basis, which should include careful screening of the visitor (including clergy, bereavement counselors, etc.) for fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat) should not be permitted to enter the facility at any time (even in end-of-life situations). Those visitors that are permitted, must wear a facemask while in the building and restrict their visit to the resident’s room or other location designated by the facility. They should also be reminded to frequently perform hand hygiene.

Nursing Homes Are Still Obligated to Meet Residents Needs During a Global Pandemic

The coronavirus is a very serious condition that can be fatal to elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The CMS is working hard to provide the guidance nursing homes need to protect their residents. This is no time for nursing homes to place profits over people. Instead, nursing homes need to step up and protect the elderly in their care and place their safety as top priority.

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covid-19-4908692_640-150x150Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing a wide array of people from visiting nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar sites in Florida in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus among some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

Anyone who’s traveled internationally, traveled on a cruise ship, is showing symptoms of the coronavirus or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus is temporarily prohibited from visiting those sites, he said.

The order applies to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long-term care facilities and adult group homes across the state.

“These are important efforts to mitigate the risk to our most vulnerable population to COVID-19,” DeSantis said.

The order required facilities to prevent the following groups of people from visiting:

▪ Anyone infected with COVID-19 who hasn’t had two consecutive negative test results cannot visit the facilities.

▪ Anyone showing signs of a respiratory infection cannot visit.

▪ Any person who has or been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 who has not tested negative is prohibited from visiting for 14 days.

▪ Any person who has traveled internationally must wait for 14 days from their return to the U.S. before visiting.

▪ Any person who has traveled on a cruise ship must wait 14 days from the date of their return before visiting.

▪ Any person who has been in a community with confirmed “community spread” of the virus must wait 14 days before visiting.

▪ Any person who lives in a community with confirmed community spread is prohibited from visiting.

“No one is exempt from the screening,” Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said.

People throughout Florida, the United States, and around the world are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, which is officially known as COVID-19. This disease originated in China, where over 100,000 people have been infected and thousands more have died. While the U.S. rate of infection has been relatively low in comparison, the main concern is that the disease may continue to spread, causing serious illnesses and deaths.

A large concern with coronavirus is how it affects the senior citizen population, which raises the question of how residents of nursing homes will be able to fight the spread of the coronavirus, especially since the largest outbreak that has occurred in the United States so far has taken place at the Life Care Center nursing home in the Seattle, Washington area. There have been more than 10 deaths at this facility, and the infection has spread to dozens of people in the surrounding community.

Our Florida Nursing Home Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand the concerns about how coronavirus infections may affect nursing home residents. We are here to help you and your families understand if negligence was a factor when harm is suffered by a loved one. We know the law as it pertains to infections and other forms of nursing home neglect and abuse, and we can work with you to establish liability and help you pursue your legal options. 

The Dangers Of Coronavirus for Nursing Home Residents

It has been determined that COVID-19 is more likely to cause serious harm to the elderly as compared to other age groups. According to researchers who have studied the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the overall fatality rate for those who are infected is around 2%. But, for those over the age of 70, the fatality rate is around 8%, and it increases to nearly 15% for those over the age of 80. Fatalities are also much more likely for patients who have conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.

Nursing Homes Must Act Responsibly to Control the Spread of Coronavirus

All nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have plans in place for disease prevention and control, as well as emergency preparedness plans that address how to respond to an outbreak. Staff members are required to follow proper hygiene procedures, which includes thoroughly washing hands and wearing eye protection and facial masks. Commonly-used areas and surfaces should be regularly disinfected. They must also follow the above listed protocols as outlined by the governor’s order. 

Nursing Homes Can Be Liable for Coronavirus Infections

When a nursing home facility fails to follow the proper steps to prevent infections, it may be liable for injuries or wrongful deaths that occurred as a result. If a resident does not receive the proper medical care after contracting an infection, the victim or their family may be able to pursue financial compensation. Claims can also be pursued if the nursing home did not take the proper measures to prevent the spread of infection to visitors to the facility.

Contact Our Florida Nursing Home Coronavirus Infection Lawyers

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connection-4884862_640-150x150Across the country from Miami to Seattle, nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are stockpiling masks and thermometers, preparing for staff shortages and screening visitors to protect a particularly vulnerable population from the coronavirus.

The outbreak began in China where the disease has been substantially deadlier for the elderly. In Italy, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe, the more than 100 people who died were either elderly, sick with other complications, or both.

Of the 19 deaths across the U.S. as of Saturday, at least 14 had been linked to a Seattle-area nursing home, along with many other infections among residents, staff and family members. The Seattle Times reported that a second nursing home and a retirement community in the area had each reported one case of the virus.

That has put other facilities in the U.S. on high alert, especially in states with large populations of older residents, such as Florida and California. About 2.5 million people live in long-term care facilities in the United States.

“For people over the age of 80 … the mortality rate could be as high as 15 percent,” said Mark Parkinson, president of the nursing home trade group American Health Care Association.

The federal government is now focusing all nursing home inspections on infection control, singling out facilities in cities with confirmed cases and those previously cited for not following protocol.

Federal rules already require the homes to have an infection prevention specialist on staff, and many have long had measures in place to deal with seasonal flus and other ailments that pose a higher risk to the elderly.

In Florida, where about 160,000 seniors live in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, mandatory visitor screening is not in place ‘because we’re not at that stage,’ said Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association.

But elder care centers are posting signs urging visitors to stay away if they have symptoms, and are looking into alternate ways for families to connect, such as through video chats, Knapp said.

Concierges in the 14 Florida nursing homes run by the Palm Gardens corporation are now giving all visitors a short questionnaire asking about symptoms, recent travel and contact with others, said company Vice President Luke Neumann.

Neumann said the nursing homes also have purchased extra thermometers in case they need to check visitors’ temperatures and stockpiled preventive supplies, including medical masks, protective eyewear and gowns. In the laundry rooms, they are making sure to use enough bleach and heat to kill any lingering virus germs, he said.

Many facilities across the country have said they were having trouble getting medical masks and gowns because of shortages.

Facilities are stressing basic precautions, including hand washing and coughing etiquette.

Centers throughout the country are also trying to prepare their staff for the worst.

Late Friday night, the DOH announced two Florida seniors who had traveled abroad have become the state’s first residents to die from the coronavirus plus additional presumptive positive cases in Broward and Lee counties.

Both died following international trips.

The World Health Organization has stopped calling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak an epidemic, but the disease is causing serious problems all over the world, including Florida. Treating the illness is at the top of everyone’s priority list, but there are still lingering questions that remain to be answered, including those about negligence and liability. Could a nursing home be held liable for virus-related deaths of its patients? The answer may not be that simple.  

What Is Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are part of a larger family of viruses that cause illnesses in humans and animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses that infect animals make the jump to humans. This is believed to have been the case with the specific virus responsible for COVID-19. COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness, and symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. For those whose immune systems are compromised, the virus can cause serious problems and can even be deadly. The symptoms are quite similar to those associated with the common cold or the flu, which means that a person might be infected with COVID-19 and not even realize it. This is why these cases can be such a huge problem in nursing homes. 

Can Nursing Homes Be Liable for Coronavirus Deaths? 

A nursing home can be held liable for injuries and deaths to patients if they failed to provide a standard duty of care. This would mean that they did not offer the level of care mandated by local, state, and federal guidelines. In extraordinary situations, as is the case of coronavirus, nursing home facilities are expected to take extra precautions. If they fail to do so, then they very well could be liable for patient injuries or death.

CDC Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in nursing home facilities. To prevent further patients being introduced to the virus, facilities are expected to post signs instructing visitors to stay out if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness. Facilities are also expected to have sick leave policies that allow staff members to stay home if they have similar symptoms.

Furthermore, proper hygiene, such as hand washing and disinfecting procedures, should be used at all times. Residents who are suspected to be infected should be kept away from other residents, and facemasks should be used if they need to leave their rooms for required procedures. Limitations on visitors and outside interactions should also be implemented if and when an infection is suspected.  

Potential Lawsuits

There are certain scenarios where the family of a coronavirus victim could be eligible for compensation from a nursing home. If the facility’s sick leave policy encouraged an infected employee to come to work despite being sick, and a resident was infected as a result, the facility could certainly be held liable. On a side note, the employee that came to work even though they knew they were positively diagnosed with COVID-19 but came to work anyway could also be liable.

A victim’s family can also file a personal injury or wrongful death claim if the nursing home facility failed to take proper steps to quarantine patients who were known or suspected to be infected. Nursing homes must follow the CDC guidelines.

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A South Florida appeals court has made a decision regarding arguments that the state improperly revoked the license of a Broward County nursing home where residents died after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal last week rejected the appeal by The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The one-page order did not explain the court’s reasons.

Lawyers for the nursing home asked the court to find that an administrative law judge made a series of errors in recommending that the facility lose its license.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning, with authorities attributing as many as 12 resident deaths to sweltering conditions in the building. But attorneys for the Agency for Health Care Administration contended in a brief that the nursing home’s “abject failure to meet its obligations as a licensed facility and the tragic consequences justify AHCA’ s decision to revoke its license.”

Hurricane Irma made landfall Sept. 10, 2017, in Monroe and Collier counties and caused damage through much of the state. The nursing home lost power to its air-conditioning system, which was out until Sept. 13, when residents were evacuated.

The deaths drew national attention and led the state to move quickly to shut down the facility and, ultimately, revoke its license. Four staff members were charged with manslaughter. Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy in 2018 issued a recommended order supporting the revocation.

While authorities have attributed as many as 12 deaths to conditions at the facility, Creasy wrote that “clear and convincing evidence” was presented during the case that nine of the 12 residents “suffered greatly from the exposure to unsafe heat in the facility.” Following Creasy’s recommendation, the Agency for Health Care Administration in January 2019 issued a final order to revoke the license.

Florida’s current nursing home generator law requires assisted living and nursing home facilities to acquire generators and fuel as a direct result of the Hurricane Irma tragedy. The equipment that they have must allow them to keep the temperature at their facility at 81 degrees or below even if they suffer a loss of power. Small facilities must be able to provide air conditioning for 48 hours and larger facilities must provide power for up to 96 hours after a power loss. 

There are additional requirements, such as facilities must create and report an emergency plan to the Department of Elder Affairs, which must be a comprehensive emergency management plan. Additionally, they must also pass an inspection by the Florida Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall performs an inspection to ensure that the generator and fuel that the facility acquires is adequate to comply with the law.

Just like all other states, Florida’s nursing home laws are set in place to provide patients with specific standards of treatment and basic rights. These laws protect the safety, comfort, and health of nursing home patients. 

Nursing home patients are also entitled to certain services such as social interaction and mental health counseling. If you are a nursing home patient or a family member and you feel you or your loved one’s rights have been violated, you should seek the assistance of our Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton.

Florida laws state that nursing homes and assisted living residents are entitled to a certain set of rights when living at a long-term care facility. These laws ensure that  residents are provided a comfortable, safe, clean, and homelike environment. Facilities are required to provide their patients with bedding, clean clothes, and comfortable living quarters. Residents should have access to hot water, clean drinking water, comfortable temperatures, and adequate lighting. Likewise, facilities must be equipped with rails, ramps, and other safety features. These facilities must also provide their residents with nutritious meals, daily exercise, medication, social activities, emergency care, and a living space free from abuse.

In Florida, nursing home abuse and neglect is defined as a caregiver’s failure to meet or provide an individual’s basic needs for things like food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and medical care. When these basic needs are forgotten, patients are at an increased risk of developing an infection, illness, deterioration, and compromised safety.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are also required to provide their patients with a safe environment that is functional, safe, comfortable, and sanitary. When facilities fail to live up to these standards, neglect can happen and result in terrible consequences like the deaths that were seen after Hurricane Irma.

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A Vietnam War veteran was bitten more than 100 times all over his body by ants while laying in his bed suffering from cancer in a nursing home on the campus of an Atlanta Veteran Affairs hospital just days before he passed away.

The Air Force veteran’s daughter was visiting him at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center, a nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus, where he was being treated for cancer, when she noticed her father’s hands were swollen and his body was covered with red bumps.

The woman said she alerted a medical center staffer to her father’s new ailments. The staff allegedly told the woman that they thought the man was dead because the ants were all over him. 

The man died just days later.

The Atlanta VA Hospital released a statement in response to the man’s case describing the actions they had taken including stripping all the bedrooms and inspecting them for ants, removing all open food containers, hiring a pest control company to do an inspection and purchasing plastic containers for the resident’s snacks.

“The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted. We would like to express our heartfelt remorse and apology to the Veterans’ families and have reached out to them to offer appropriate assistance,” the statement read.

After the incident, the woman said that the health center workers bathed her father and cleaned his room, but the next day, the ants came back. He was then moved to a new room where he would later die, according to reports. 

“Atlanta VA Health Care System always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don’t meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we have initiated a fact finding on the nursing and environmental care processes to ensure we are providing safe and effective care,” the Atlanta VA Hospital statement concluded.

An infestation of any kind (ants, bed bugs, lice, cockroaches, rats, etc.) is a very strong indicator that a nursing home or assisted living facility is not taking the proper steps to make sure that their facility is clean and free from pests and contagious parasites. Moreover, this is a sign that the nursing home or assisted living facility is falling below the standard of care that they are required to provide to their residents. If your loved one is the victim of an insect infestation in a nursing home or assisted living facility, our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to speak with us as soon as possible. 

Nursing home abuse or neglect is a serious issue that affects thousands of residents. Indications of nursing home abuse or neglect include:

  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Bedsores and pressure ulcers
  • Soiled clothing or bedding
  • Generally unsanitary conditions

If you have a loved one who is living under poor conditions in a nursing home, you need to take immediate action. When neglect or abuse is prolonged, serious and fatal consequences are possible. 

The best way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is by visiting your loved one on a regular basis. Frequent visits will help you become familiar with the daily conditions of the facility. You will also get to know the staff and gain a better understanding of day to day operations. The more involved you become, the lower the chances of injury or death to your loved one. 

We understand that it is not possible to spend every moment in the presence of our loved ones, which is why many people turn to trusting medical professionals to care for their elderly family members in the first place. When nursing homes or assisted living facilities fail to provide the standard of care your loved one deserves, you may be entitled to take legal action. Our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to review your case completely free of charge and help you determine the best way to proceed.

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Arrests are expected Monday in the case of a Florida nursing home where 12 elderly patients died after it lost power during a 2017 hurricane, according to reports.

Three nurses and an administrator are apparently being charged. The charges are unknown at this time, but they will likely be some form of manslaughter.

Police have been investigating the deaths for nearly two years but no charges have been filed. 

Patients began dying at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills days after the hurricane. Investigators say the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside rose, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home’s license was suspended days after the storm and it later shuttered.

On Wednesday, September 13th paramedics were called to see to patients in distress at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Firefighters went throughout the entire nursing home facility and found three people dead. Emergency responders then evacuated more than 150 patients to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. By Wednesday afternoon, five more residents had died. The nursing home sits across the street from Memorial Regional Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which did not lose power during the entire storm. Regardless, other than a couple residents, the facility did not evacuate any residents until residents began to perish starting early in the morning of September 13th. 

Paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that they are haunted by the deaths of 12 patients. A Fire Lt. said one of the female victims had a temperature of 107.5 degrees (42 Celsius), the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career. Later that morning, another patient topped that with a temperature that was so high it couldn’t be measured, she said.

The case made national headlines and sparked political backlash. Months after the deaths, lawmakers passed a bill requiring backup power sources in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The legislation require the facilities to have a generator capable of keeping nursing homes and assisted living facilities at 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or lower for at least four days.

Our Florida Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are passionate about helping families of wrongful death victims hold nursing homes accountable for their actions. When we take a nursing home negligence case, we will do whatever it takes to help family members obtain maximum compensation for their loss. If you have lost a loved one and believe that negligence or abuse may be to blame, we urge you to get in touch with us so that we can hold the nursing home responsible and win you the compensation you deserve.

Sadly, residents suffer these conditions as a direct result of receiving inadequate or improper care. Whether this is the result of a singular incident (such as losing power and suffering from sweltering temperatures) or deficient care over an extended period of time (as with malnutrition or dehydration), negligence on the part of nursing home staff members can easily lead to fatal medical conditions that with proper care should have been avoided.

It is important to note that even when conditions are not fatal, the elderly residents of nursing homes are still at an increased risk for contracting other life-threatening conditions and diseases. Severe injuries from falls and serious illnesses like untreated bed sores can all leave elderly residents in a weakened physical and emotional state. This makes them much more susceptible to being unable to fight off other illnesses and infections, and ultimately could result in them losing their life. When nurses and other nursing home staff members are unable or unwilling to provide details on how your loved one died, this can be a warning sign that negligence or abuse was a factor. You have every right to question the cause of your loved one’s death, and if the answers are hard to come by then you could have a valid wrongful death claim against the nursing home. 

Our lawyers can help you get the answers you are looking for, and if it appears that you have a claim, we will do whatever we can to make sure your are fully compensated for your losses.

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In 2017, 12 residents at a nursing home in Broward County died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

In March 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have alternative sources of power in the event of a natural disaster. The original deadline for compliance was Jan. 1, but some facilities are still requesting extra time. June 1 was the official start of hurricane season and the new deadline for facilities to implement their plans.

Most counties in north central Florida are compliant, including Levy, Gilchrist, Columbia, Union, Bradford and Putnam. 

According to the state Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA), Alachua and Marion counties are both in 100 percent compliance.

According to the ACHA, a facility is compliant if its plan is fully implemented, or it has requested or been granted a deadline extension based on valid delays. All such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Availability of proper equipment, installation scheduling and mechanical engineering plans reviews and approvals are some key reasons why facilities may require an extension. 

According to ACHA’s website, nursing homes and assisted living facilities may qualify for supply costs reimbursement and funding assistance through Medicare and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The new environmental control rule mandates that the plan a facility sends to a local emergency management department should include a timeline by which it would be fully implemented.

The new state law sets no limits regarding extension requests or their duration.

While Alachua and Marion counties are all in compliance. Other counties, however, have more work to do in order to become compliant.

Clay County is at 96 percent, but there is no timeline for reaching 100 percent. On April 10, according to state records, Governors Creek Health and Rehabilitation in Clay County filed a petition requesting more time beyond June 1. Heartland Healthcare Center – Orange Park is also seeking the same extension.

Duval County is also at 96 percent. Seven centers had petitioned for more time, including Heartland Health Care Center of South Jacksonville, San Jose Health and Rehabilitation Center, First Coast Health and Rehabilitation Center, ISLF Deerwood Place, Fouraker Hills Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Terrace of Jacksonville and Riverwood Center.

Facilities granted extensions must send monthly and quarterly progress reports to ACHA.

The facilities with approved extensions are still required to have an adequate plan to protect patients during a power outage. This includes a temporary generator on-site, a plan to obtain a generator within 24 hours of a power outage or a full evacuation plan.

In Levy County, some facilities have taken a different approach. Instead of purchasing generators, they borrow them.  

The Electrical Generating Systems Association and Disaster Contractors Network offer website directories that allow facilities to search for local contractors providing resources and assistance.

Other regions, including Bradford and Union counties, have fewer nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but more group homes, which follow different regulations.

Group homes must adhere to the guidelines of both ACHA and the Agencies for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

North Central Florida is one of only two regions in the state to achieve full compliance. Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties in the panhandle are also at 100 percent.

Counties with the lowest percentages are Bay and Highlands. They are both at 92 percent.

The overall compliance rate statewide is 98 percent. Out of 3,753 licensed facilities in Florida, 2,621 have fully implemented their emergency power plans and 1,070 have extensions.

Here is a full list of all nursing homes in Alachua County: 

  • North Florida Rehabilitation and Specialty Care
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida Inc
  • Palm Garden of Gainesville
  • Park Meadows Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Parklands Care Center
  • Plaza Health and Rehab 
  • Signature HealthCare of Gainesville 
  • Terrace Health & Rehabilitation Center 

Below is a list of all assisted living facilities in Alachua County: 

  • Annie’s House
  • Brookdale Gainesville Southwest 
  • Harborchase of Gainesville
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Assisted Living  
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Memory Care
  • The Mayflower Assisted Living 
  • Misty Meadows
  • North Florida Retirement Village
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida
  • Plantation Oaks Senior Living Residence
  • Southwest Retirement Home
  • The Windsor of Gainesville Assisted Living & Memory Care

Marion County nursing homes: 

  • Avante at Ocala, Inc
  • Bridgewater Park Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Hawthorne Health & Rehab of Ocala 
  • Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Oakhurst Center
  • Ocala Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Ocala Oaks Rehabilitation Center
  • Palm Garden of Ocala
  • The Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Timberridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Marion County assisted living facilities: 

  • A Cottage Called Home LLC
  • Brentwood at Fore Ranch 
  • Bridge at Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Bridgewater Park Assisted Living 
  • Brookdale Canopy Oaks 
  • Brookdale Chambrel Pinecastle 
  • Brookdale Paddock Hills
  • Camelot Château
  • Canterfield of Ocala LLC
  • Change of Pace Ret Center
  • God Answers Prayers – Emmanuel, Inc
  • Hampton ALF at 24th Road LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Belleview LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Deerwood LLC
  • Haven House of Ocala
  • Hawthorne Inn of Ocala 
  • Hidden Pines ALF
  • Higher Ground Assisted Living Facility 
  • Marion Oaks Assisted Living 
  • Mcintosh Assisted Living Inc
  • Pacifica Senior Living Ocala 
  • Paddock Ridge 
  • Prestige Manor
  • Prestige Manor III
  • Solita’s Comfort 
  • Specialty Care Services Inc
  • Summerfield Suites
  • Superior Residences at Cala Hills
  • Syerra’s Angels 
  • The Harbor House of Ocala 
  • The Harmony House of Ocala
  • Windsor at Ocala
  • Wings of Love Assisted Living Facility LLC

While Alachua and Marion Counties are in the clear with the generator requirements, other Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities are coming up short. If a Florida nursing home fails to comply with the generator laws, their actions could be deemed as negligence. This means that their actions, or lack thereof, may automatically open them up to legal liability if a resident becomes a victim. 

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