Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been reported that some nursing homes around the country are evicting vulnerable residents, regardless of whether they have a safe place to go. Many of those residents end up in unlicensed boarding houses or homeless shelters, putting them at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Since the pandemic hit the United States, over 40% of the total death toll has consisted of residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities—over 51,000 people. Yet, despite being hit so hard by this crisis, some nursing homes have apparently been taking on COVID patients because they are reimbursed at a higher rate—sometimes even $600 per day more than other residents. Employees at several nursing homes around the country have been told to try to clear out residents to make room for COVID patients, improperly discharging elderly residents into unsafe conditions with no one to care for them.
One man with dementia in Los Angeles was improperly discharged to an unlicensed board house 20 miles away, without his family being notified. A few days later, he was found wandering around by police. In New York City, over 27 residents of nursing homes were discharged to homeless shelters from February to May. According to this New York Times article, 26 nursing home ombudsmen from 18 different states estimated that there had been over 6,400 discharges during the pandemic just from the facilities they oversee, many to homeless shelters. Most believe that is a dramatic undercount, however.
Many of these evictions violate federal laws that mandate nursing homes provide residents with at least 30 days’ notice and place them in safe locations. They are also required to notify the family and the state ombudsman, but this is often not done either.
Prior to the pandemic lockdown, ombudsmen would go to nursing homes on a regular basis to monitor them. Most residents also had family members that would visit and make sure they were being cared for properly. Once the pandemic hit, though, ombudsmen and families were no longer allowed to visit. Without monitoring, nursing homes can more easily evict residents to make room for higher-paying COVID patients.
Nursing home discharges can be unsafe during normal times if there is no one there to care for the vulnerable patient. During a pandemic that preys on the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, however, improper discharges are even more dangerous.
Numerous states have passed laws giving nursing homes and other medical providers “immunity” from injury/wrongful death lawsuits during the pandemic. Some states, like Kentucky, have laws that don’t necessarily make a lawsuit that difficult to bring during the COVID-19 pandemic and current state of emergency. Other states have laws that make it very difficult. Regardless, these immunity laws should not protect a nursing home from wrongfully discharging a resident.
If you or a loved one feels they have been improperly discharged from a nursing home, or mistreated by a nursing home, contact our experienced Wilmington nursing home abuse attorneys at Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP as soon as possible. Even if the injury happened during COVID, there is some possibility a case can still be brought.