You may have heard the news that Public health officials are investigating a nursing home in Las Vegas where 24 deaths have been reported in connection with COVID-19.
During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, certain states including Nevada have granted healthcare providers immunity in some situations. Nevada Emergency Declaration 4/1/2020 effective until modified or rescinded states:
“All providers of medical services related to COVID-19 are performing services for emergency management subject to the order or control of and at the request of State Government and shall be afforded the immunities and protections set forth in NRS 414.110, subject to the same exclusions therein…” http://gov.nv.gov/News/Emergency_Orders/2020/2020-04-01_-_COVID-19_Declaration_of_Emergency_Directive_011/
Does this immunity apply to nursing homes or assisted living facilities? The emergency order does not explicitly mention nursing homes. Are nursing homes performing services for emergency management related to COVID 19? It appears to me that an argument can certainly be made that they are not; since emergency services are more the function of a hospital. There is also an exception in the emergency order for cases involving willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith.
WHY WOULD A NURSING HOME BE RESPONSIBLE FOR A COVID 19 DEATH?
A lack of PPE equipment, and lack of testing can lead to rapid spread of the virus. Once one patient gets it, it spreads and then another patient gets it, and the staff gets it. It’s not just the PPE equipment that isn’t being provided, but, in many instances, not enough people or enough instruction. At the nursing homes, a lot of the staff are calling in. Either they’re sick or they just don’t want to be there. And the nursing home has the dilemma, not only of having to staff the home, but finding outside people, and the outside people could be bringing the virus into the facility.
Families are under the impression they’re going to be afforded certain protections; and with the coronavirus, they can’t visit their loved ones. So they’re trusting that there’s protections in place. People with a certain level of disability have come to these facilities with the understanding that they would be afforded these protections. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act the facility has to provide enough staff supervision, testing separation, regimentation to protect people with these health issues. An assisted living facility typically has many psychiatric patients; people with dementia. This is a population that cannot just be told that they need to socially distance ourselves, to stay in their rooms, not hang out and roam in the hallways they cannot properly process this situation. So instructions are not necessarily followed.
A nursing home could be liable for lying to families about coronavirus cases or about the safety of their facility. Such an action would likely be considered a business decision and probably would not be covered under a health care shield during a pandemic.
If you had a love one pass away in a nursing home or assisted living facility in Nevada and you want to discuss your options please contact my office.