There were serious concerns that the Mississippi Department of Health was trying to keep nursing home problems secret during the coronavirus outbreak.
Requests for cases in nursing homes were ignored
Suspicions were raised by many when the state’s health department said it would not publish the names of homes where infections were reported, or any related information. The lists of these facilities technically does exist, however the department said that it is too busy to release the documents and made other excuses. Local news outlets filed a public records request shortly after the pandemic began, and the agency took over a month to respond. This slow response is technically a violation of the state’s public records law.
Other states with large elderly populations such as Georgia, Florida, and California have all identified problem homes to the public. The state’s AARP and other organizations have gotten involved with the move to push for publication of the records, especially in counties that have already been identified as virus hotspots.
Nursing homes only account for about 13% of Mississippi’s coronavirus cases, but they account for about half of all virus related deaths in the state. These numbers have created concerns regarding exactly what nursing homes are doing to manage the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable residents. The department of health has consistently cited privacy concerns about publicizing the names of infected homes and residents, but no such privacy law exists in the state. The letter sent by the department weeks earlier said that all such records requests will essentially be ignored until further notice due to a backlog of various issues.
A state official who routinely deals with the department of health confirmed that the lists and the records about the virus in nursing homes exist. However, he said they are concerned with legal issues and dealing with the media, so they are simply ignoring the requests for the foreseeable future. He further claimed that there is a long standing policy to not release these kinds of records for long term care facilities.
Nursing homes and the possibility of serious illness
Many long term care facilities in the state and around the country constantly have issues with patients who are abused or neglected. People who are elderly or sick can die due to these issues, and in many instances, homes are never properly investigated because due to a desire to avoid lawsuits and liability. If you have a family member in a nursing home, it is important to stay in touch with them and take action if you have any suspicions regarding their declining health.
Speak with a lawyer who focuses on nursing home cases
There are attorneys in Jackson, Mississippi who can assist you if you believe a nursing home is responsible for abuse and neglect. To learn more, contact:
129B South President Street, Jackson, MS 39201