Protective measures and policy updates to curtail the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus rolled out slowly and left many vulnerable. Whenever a threat occurs, it is the most vulnerable that tend to pay the highest price.
It’s saddening, but not surprising, that elder care and nursing home facilities suffered immediately from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have they experienced high losses in terms of resident fatalities, but structural weaknesses and policy lapses have been brought to light.
The impact has been so brutal that within days of first death, lobbyists for large scale facilities began pushing for State and Federal courts to provide them legal immunity from their actions.
Read on to get an overview of how these systems failed and what these immunity measures do to address defects.
Co-Morbidities and Communal Space
COVID-19 hasn’t mutated like other viruses that create pandemic issues, such as influenza, but its novel nature has created problems in diagnosis and treatment. The disease, COVID-19, continues to surprise researchers with what it effects and how severely.
Age and co-morbidities have stood out as strong indicators of mortality. It’s not surprising that those in long terms care facilities would be impacted. In the first month, nearly half of all fatalities were in care facilities.
The close-knit nature of these facilities meant that one infection in a facility was highly likely to spread to other residents during the asymptomatic period.
Care Policy Hurdles
Adding to these obvious issues ware a host of intensifiers directly related to policy. Recommendations for PPE came from both the WHO and the CDC (though there was some waffling on exactly when and how to use).
In nursing home facilities, reserves of PPE dried up quickly. In many locations, they were not available to staff without permissions from senior staffers.
On top of this, wages and hours at care facilities have long been undercut. Short staffing policies have left workers stretched thin to care for the seriously ill and still maintain regular duties.
This low hours/wages have proven doubly difficult for the spread of COVID-19. Care personnel at many facilities pick up extra hours and shifts at other facilities. A single person may work at as many as three homes in a city carrying infection from one to the other and producing a massive shortfall in manpower at this critical time.
It’s important that long term care facilities have some protection during a healthcare crisis. The normal duty to provide care isn’t negated but it is curtailed.
In any medical crisis the ugly term triage shows up. Dwindling supplies are rationed to ensure the health of those more likely to survive while conserving resources spent on lost causes.
Care workers have their own health to consider and protect. Facilities face the crux of a dilemma where they bar visitors and residents are held hostage for their own protection.
However, these immunities cannot and should not be used to bandage the cracks in systems anemic from years of mismanagement and overrun with standards violations.
At some point the immediate crisis will be over. In that time, reviews and updates to policies that allowed so much tragedy to unfold need to be done. It is not enough for administrators to wash their hands of the stunningly broken system they’ve created.
Contact us for more information and to begin documentation if you have a loved one suffering nursing home neglect during this trying time. We are always here to help.