With 20K Dead, Care Homes Seek Protection

They see a deluge of potential lawsuits on the way
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2020 1:55 PM CDT
With 20K Dead, Care Homes Seek Protection
In this April 8, 2020 file photo, health care workers carry personal belongs of a patient to a waiting ambulance as the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside, Calif., is evacuated to a waiting ambulance.   (Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

Faced with 20,000 coronavirus deaths and counting, the nation's nursing homes are pushing back against a potential flood of lawsuits with a sweeping lobbying effort to get states to grant them emergency protection from claims of inadequate care, the AP reports. At least 15 states have enacted laws or governors' orders that explicitly or apparently provide nursing homes and long-term care facilities some protection from lawsuits arising from the crisis. And in the case of New York, which leads the nation in deaths in such facilities, a lobbying group wrote the first draft of a measure that apparently makes it the only state with specific protection from both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution. Now the industry is forging ahead with a campaign to get other states on board with a simple argument.

They argue that this was an unprecedented crisis and nursing homes should not be liable for events beyond their control, such as shortages of protective equipment and testing, shifting directives from authorities, and sicknesses that have decimated staffs. Their next big goal is California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to make a decision. Other states in their sights include Florida, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. Watchdogs, patient advocates, and lawyers argue that immunity orders are misguided. At a time when the crisis is laying bare such chronic industry problems as staffing shortages and poor infection control, they say legal liability is the last safety net to keep facilities accountable. They also contend nursing homes are taking advantage of the crisis to protect their bottom lines.

(More nursing homes stories.)

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