The COVID-19 coronavirus has been found in more than 80 nursing homes in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reported. One nursing home in Baltimore had 170 coronavirus cases among residents and staff, making it the biggest outbreak in Maryland and one of the largest in the country, according to the Washington Post. Another nursing home in Mount Airy, MD had six residents die and 77 residents and 24 staff members reported ill of coronavirus.
In early April, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. Marylanders with loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been unable to visit family members as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide adequate care for residents entrusted to their care and to adhere to recognized standards for the prevention of infection. When patients suffer harm as a result of a neglect by nursing home staff or failure to take proper preventive measures, the nursing home may be liable for the harm to the patient.
The Washington, D.C., medical malpractice lawyers of The Law Offices of Michael M. Wilson M.D., J.D. & Associates can explain your legal options if a loved one of yours has suffered harm as a result of negligence in a Maryland nursing home or similar long-term care facility. You may have a right to seek compensation for medical costs and other losses, including pain and suffering.
Maryland Moves to Slow the COVID-19 Spread in Nursing Homes
Governor Hogan’s April 5 emergency order required Maryland nursing homes to:
- Direct all staff who interact with residents to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times while providing care to residents in the facility, including a face mask, appropriate eye protection, gloves and gown.
- Create separate observation and isolation areas for residents who are known or suspected to have COVID-19
- Expedite all testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus through the Maryland State Public Health Laboratory.
Hogan’s order references guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Maryland Department of Health’s directives to nursing home facilities and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which funds most nursing homes.
Long before the Maryland governor acted, nursing homes in Maryland knew or should have known about community, or person-to-person, transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus and that it was a crucial issue among the elderly and infirm.
The CMS advised the nation’s healthcare facilities on February 6 about “Patients with Possible Coronavirus Illness.”
“Every Medicare-participating facility in the nation’s healthcare system must adhere to standards for infection prevention and control in order to provide safe, high quality care,” the CMS memos says. “As concerns arise with the emerging 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) threat, CMS encourages all healthcare facilities to carefully review the information provided by our partners at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
The CMS memo linked to a February 1 situational update and interim guidance from the CDC to state and local health departments. It included guidance for clinicians caring for patients with 2019-nCoV.
The CDC’s strategies for preparing for COVID-19 in long-term care facilities (LCTFs) and nursing homes are based on long-standing strategies such facilities use daily to detect and prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses like influenza, the agency says.
The CDC’s guidance for nursing homes says these facilities should assume that COVID-19 could already be in their community. With groups of older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions living in close proximity, nursing home populations are at the highest risk of being affected by COVID-19, the CDC says.
The CMS has issued guidelines for nursing homes and other LTCFs to prevent spread of COVID-19 that state:
- Nursing homes should immediately ensure that they are complying with all CMS and CDC guidance related to infection control.
- State and local health departments should work with LTCFs to help address their needs for personal protection equipment (PPE) and/or COVID-19 tests.
- Nursing homes should immediately begin screening every individual who enters the facility, including residents, staff, visitors, outside healthcare workers and vendors.
- Nursing homes should ensure all staff use appropriate personal protective equipment when they interact with patients and residents, to the extent the equipment is available and in accordance with CDC guidance.
- To avoid transmission within LTCFs, facilities should use separate staffing teams for COVID-19-positive residents to the best of their ability, and work with state and local leaders to designate separate units within a facility to separate COVID-19 negative residents from COVID-19 positive residents and individuals with unknown COVID-19 status.
As nearly 1 in 10 nursing homes in America had publicly reported cases of the coronavirus and nursing home deaths amounted to thousands of residents, the CMS mandated that nursing homes inform residents, their families and the federal government about cases of COVID-19, according to the Washington Post,. The CDC is to collect this information. CMS Administrator Seema Verma told the Post that the data, including deaths among residents and staff members, would be publicly released soon.
The Post said its analysis of available information from CMS-funded nursing homes indicated there had been more than 3,000 deaths and known coronavirus cases at about 1,350 facilities nationwide as of April 20.
Contact an Attorney About Suspected Nursing Home COVID-19
The investigations that will follow the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will result in findings of negligence and worse in numerous cases. The data already show that it was understood that the virus posed an elevated risk of serious illness and death among the elderly and that nursing homes were warned in early February to start using protocols that were already established to prepare for coronavirus.
Nursing home owners, managers and staff who did not follow guidelines as issued by the CDC, CMS and state and local public health agencies to protect residents from the coronavirus may be found to be negligent.
If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 who contracted the illness in a nursing home or similar setting, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney. In Maryland and the greater Washington, D.C., area, the Law Offices of Michael M. Wilson M.D., J.D. & Associates can assist you. Our lawyers provide the benefit of an extensive legal background as well as a medical background. Over the years we have recovered more than $100 million for clients like you. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation remote legal consultation.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.