COVID-19 and Health Care Facilities’ Violations and Negligence
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has worked to adjust to the new normal of social distancing, closed businesses, health care facility “lockdowns,” and stay-at-home orders.
In Florida, as well as other states, laws have been enacted regarding Coronavirus and health care facilities including nursing homes and rehabilitation centers which house the most vulnerable populations. In addition, municipal, county, and state orders have been issued by governments to ensure the health of these at risk individuals. Even so, some health care facilities have violated the orders by failing to comply on issues including both employee rights and resident rights.
Many nursing homes failed to act quickly to protect their employees and residents during the start of the pandemic. If you believe your loved one tested positive for COVID-19 due to a violation of the orders or negligence, contact an experienced attorney to help seek your legal options.
Before we explore the violations reported here in Florida, let’s review the mandates issued beginning with the March 15, 2020 order.
- On March 15, 2020, an emergency order was issued statewide, with a term of 30 days, which prohibited all individuals from entering nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- On March 19, 2020, a statewide order, effective immediately, was issued requiring the universal use of facial masks at all times in every residential/long term facility for all staff and any individual entering the facility. This order also included the provision that all staff in residential/long term facilities wear gloves at all times while providing direct care to patients or residents.
Executive Order Number 20-52
Executive Order Number 20-52, passed on March 15, 2020, stated that all facilities including Group Home Facilities, Developmental Disabilities Centers, Nursing Homes, homes for Special Services, Long-Term Care Hospitals, Transitional Living Facilities, Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled, Assisted Living Facilities, Adult Mental Health and Treatment Facilities, Adult Forensic Facilities, and Adult Family Care Homes have been ordered as follows:
1.Every facility must prohibit the entry of any individual, to the facility except in the following circumstances:
- Family members, friends, and visiting residents in end-of-life situations.
- Hospice or palliative care workers caring for residents in end-of-life situations.
- Any individuals providing necessary health care to a resident.
- Facility staff.
- Facility residents.
- Attorneys of Record for a resident in an Adult Mental Health and Treatment facility for court related matters if virtual or telephonic means are unavailable.
- Representatives of the federal or state government seeking entry as part of their official duties, including, but not limited to, Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, representatives of the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, the Department of Elderly Affairs, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a protection and advocacy organization under 42 U.S.C. §15041, the Office of the Attorney General, any law enforcement officer, and any emergency medical personnel.
2. Individuals seeking entry to the facility under the above section 1 will not be allowed to enter if they meet any of the screening criteria listed below:
- Any person infected with COVID-19 who has not had two consecutive negative test results separated by 24 hours.
- Any person showing, presenting signs or symptoms of, or disclosing the presence of a respiratory infection, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
- Any person who has been in contact with any person(s) known to be infected with COVID-19, who has not yet tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
- Any person who traveled through any airport within the past 14 days.
- Any person who traveled on a cruise ship within the past 14 days.
3. Residents must be discouraged from leaving the facility.
4. The following documentation must be kept for visitation within a facility:
- Individuals entering a facility subject to the screening criteria above may be screened using a standardized questionnaire or other form of documentation.
- The facility is required to maintain documentation of all non-resident individuals entering the facility, Documentation must include:
- Name of the individual
- Date and time of entry
- The documentation used by the facility to screen the individual showing the individual did not meet any of the enumerated screening criteria, including the screening employee’s printed name and signature.
With mandatory state orders in place, many nursing homes and other senior care facilities failed to protect their employees and residents. The highly contagious disease somehow still managed to spread with pandemic guidelines in place. So who’s responsible? At SteinLaw, we’re here to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your loved one.
News – Coronavirus Cases in Florida Health Care Facilities – Nursing Homes and Rehabilitation Centers
On March 26, Channel 7 News Miami (WSVN News) reported 3 new deaths at Atria Willow Wood Assisted Living Facility, bringing the total COVID-19 deaths to six. At that time, 16 residents had tested positive for coronavirus. Since that time, one more resident has passed away due to COVID-19, a staff member at the facility has tested positive, and several resident tests are pending results.
On March 27, Local 10 News (WPLG, LLC) published an article reporting two residents at Hillcrest Healthcare Rehabilitation in Hollywood Florida were hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.
Also, on March 27, Local 10 News reported that Broward County has 35 percent of the Florida Coronavirus cases at long-term care facilities with cases confirmed at these long-term care facilities: Hillcrest Healthcare, Five Star, Lincoln Manner, and Sterling and Alexander Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home. Later, on April 8, 2020, the same news outlet reported four residents and four employees had tested positive for the coronavirus at Alexander Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home.
All these cases could have been prevented if nursing homes and other facilities would have enforced effective social distancing, frequent hand sanitation, and the usage of face masks. If your elderly loved one passed away due to the coronavirus while residing in a nursing home, contact SteinLaw for a confidential and personalized case evaluation.
Are These Cases Criminal?
Any violation of these laws or orders which were committed by health care facilities, including nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and long term care facilities, could be considered criminal due to non-compliance or negligence which costs patients or residents their lives.
If you believe you lost a loved one due to a violation of the orders related to COVID-19 or negligence, reach out today to Attorney Brandon Stein and the professional legal team at SteinLaw for a free consultation regarding your case. We can help. Our offices are open and following strict CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in regard to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure your safety.