Who is at Fault?

Reckless Indifference

Who is to blame when a nursing home resident dies of COVID-19?  The owner? The management company? The caregivers? The resident? No one? Well, it depends. USA Today had an article discussing one set of circumstances from the Villages of Lapeer Nursing and Rehabilitation. What do you think?

Families of residents complained that nursing home employees were not wearing masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Other nearby nursing homes had lower COVID-19 statistics. This concerned families and employees. One Lapeer, Michigan, man said:

“They (the nearby facilities) actually took the precautions. And that’s what pisses me off, is that when we’d go see Mom through the window and it wasn’t the workers’ fault – I had talked to several of them – they just were just being told they could not wear the stuff.”

As a result, residents and caregivers sued the nursing home. Employees contracted the virus. They contend the nursing home refused to test residents or staff even when symptomatic. The Director of Nursing even ripped the mask off of one employee. Her boss told her she was scaring the residents. The employee’s attorney explained:

“When you rip the face mask off of a person … that’s active, that’s intentional, that’s reckless. This is not just a screw-up. This is not a mistake.”

The lawyer continued. “This is actively, recklessly putting people in a horrible or deadly disease.”

Immediate Jeopardy

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows 19 residents in the 87-bed facility died of COVID-19,  That is more than half of the 34 COVID-19 deaths in Lapeer County. Michigan conducted a survey and found “immediate jeopardy” to the residents. The 37-page report corroborates management prohibiting staff from wearing PPE.

“Based on observation, interview and record review, the facility failed to follow accepted Infection Control standards of practice to ensure the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment/PPE (the use of facial masks) was made available for staff usage when caring for residents during the onset of the facility”s COVID-19 outbreak of a census of 58 residents, resulting in increased COVID-19 cross contamination, 25 facility residents with reported COVID-19 tests … numerous staff members with reported positive COVID-19 test results, 6 resident deaths … and the potential for further cross contamination of other residents residing in the facility with possible hospitalization and death,” according to the report.

The owners blame a shortage of PPE across the country. However, volunteers and families donated enough PPE. In fact, a March 27 post on the facility’s Facebook page shows homemade masks and N95 masks and says, “Our community has been so gracious to us, and we are SO grateful!”

Frontline heroes reported the unsafe conditions. However, owner/operator had no plans to test any of the residents.  Some of those patients died.

The survey found that the nursing home’s management, “disregarded weeks-long internal reports of resident danger and continued to refuse to test residents and effectively continued to allow these dangerous conditions to persist in the face of a serious problem and imminent harm to numerous high-risk residents.”