A suburban Minneapolis nursing home said 47 residents have died from complications of COVID-19, the most at any long-term care facility in Minnesota. St. Therese, which has a 258-bed capacity, said all residents have been tested. Of those who have tested positive, about one-third were asymptomatic, living with a roommate and unknowingly spreading the virus. The first resident tested positive April 5, and the first two deaths were the next day. All residents testing positive were moved into one unit to prevent more infections. Out of Minnesota’s 578 deaths, 464 confirmed deaths occurred in nursing homes.
Because federal and state laws have been put into place to protect nursing home residents’ basic rights and ensure they are not abused or neglected in their living situation, including the right to be free from isolation, the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has changed the way those laws are interpreted by prioritizing impacts to virus exposure against isolation concerns that impact certain freedoms. Health care providers of residents realize that loneliness and fear can exacerbate pre-existing health problems, but must react swiftly to the increasing numbers of U.S. nursing home cases and deaths of staff and residents due to COVID-19. Family members are concerned about the treatment of their loved ones, with some exercising their right to legal action due to a lack of transparency in reporting the spread in long term care facilities and substandard medical care.
Claims of abuse that can be reported include acts of negligence that cause, or exacerbate existing health conditions or place residents in danger. Each case will have to be individually reviewed to establish if COVID-19 treatment caused death or exacerbated illness in residents. Nursing homes must follow Federal Regulation 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h) providing for a facility to ensure a resident’s environment remains as free of hazards as possible and that ample supervision is provided, along with adequate medical treatment upholding the current medical standards of care.
If unintentional neglect due to isolation during COVID-19 led to the death of a loved one, a family may be compensated if they can prove that negligence was involved. Elements that will determine the value in a case of nursing home abuse include economic damages to pay expenses, financial loss and funeral costs; and non-economic damages to compensate families for pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages may be imposed for intentional or careless behavior and to discourage others from similar action.
Wrongful death legal actions arise out of grave injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another. An experienced attorney can navigate the way the laws are interpreted for COVID-19 negative outcomes with possible compensation to Minnesota families.
Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987