How widespread is COVID-19 in Illinois nursing homes?
Do you have a family member or friend in a nursing home? If so, you are probably very concerned about the spread of COVID-19. There are approximately 1,200 nursing homes in Illinois with approximately 100,000 residents. Nursing homes are licensed, regulated and inspected by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the US Department of Health and Human Resources.
In February, the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in the United States at a nursing home facility in Kirkland, Washington. Sadly, this epidemic has now reached Illinois nursing homes with the largest outbreak in the state recently announced at the Symphony of Joliet nursing home which reported 81 COVID-19 cases with 26 deaths.
Even more troubling are the recent reports that suggest some nursing homes are not taking appropriate precautions or failing to accurately report COVID-19 cases. Sadly a resident, Anton Schallmoser, at Presence Maryhaven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glenview recently died from COVID-19. The resident reportedly had a fever for weeks but was denied a test for COVID-19. Further, a roommate had previously tested positive for COVID-19. His son reported he was unable to get information from the nursing home and eventually called the Glenview police department to check on his father. Police contacted a social worker who then discovered his father’s health condition was extremely poor. Anton Schallmoser was immediately transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and later passed away. With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic hitting Illinois nursing homes particularly hard, it is critical to know what safety measures nursing homes are required to take and your legal rights if you or a loved one contract COVID-19.
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What safety measures and precautions are Illinois nursing homes required to take?
Strict guidelines have been issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure proper monitoring of staff and residents. All residents should have vitals and pulse oximetry screened every 8 hours. In the event of a positive COVID-19 test or viral respiratory infection, the resident must be placed in a private room; provided a mask (personal protective equipment); provided a routine pathogen test; and immediately placed in both contact and droplet transmission-based precautions. Symptomatic residents should only leave their room for necessary medical procedures and staff should consider working with only positive or negative residents. Ultimately, residents should be transferred to a hospital based upon criteria used for other illnesses.
Facilities should stop group activities and restrict visitation to essential individuals. Meanwhile, staff is instructed to stay home when sick and should be screened prior to beginning their shift. Nursing homes should properly educate staff on hygiene, disinfection and proper use of personal protective equipment. A complete list of guidelines can be found at the Illinois Departmet of Public Health website.
Is a nursing home required to inform family members of a COVID-19 case?
In light of troubling reports that nursing homes were failing to disclose COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that nursing homes are required to inform residents, their families and representatives when there is a positive resident or staff COVID-19 case. The notification must be made within 12 hours of a positive case. Further, nursing homes must also report if 3 or more individuals develop respiratory issues within a 72 hour period. Nursing homes will be required to report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) as well as the state departments. Updated COVID-19 cases can be located at the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
Are nursing homes liable for COVID-19 related injuries or death?
On April 1, 2020, Illinois Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-19 granting nursing homes and skilled or intermediate long-term care facilities immunity from civil liability “for any injury or death alleged to have been caused by any act or omission by the Health Care Facility, which injury or death occurred at a time when [the] Health Care Facility was engaged in the course of rendering assistance to the State by providing health care services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.” The language of the order is broad and it is not clear how it will be interpreted. However, the order does not provide immunity to nursing homes in instances of gross negligence or willful misconduct. The full order can be found at the Illinois.gov website.
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How can I get help if I think my loved one wasn’t cared for properly in a nursing home?
If you or someone you know has tested positive for COVID-19 while under care of a nursing home or subjected to neglect, please contact the lawyers at The Kryder Law Group to discuss you legal rights at (312) 223-1700 or email@example.com.