Elderly people living in nursing homes and residential care facilities are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve reported on a number of wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes after family members died from coronavirus, for alleged failure to keep residents safe, understaffing, failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and failing to follow cleaning and sanitation procedures.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a national health emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is supposed to provide support during these times for protection and safety. Unfortunately, FEMA may be acting just as negligent as problem nursing homes. According to the New Hampshire Health Care Association, FEMA is sending faulty protective gear to nursing homes.
Faulty PPE May Be No Better Than No PPE
Nursing homes were initially relieved to receive packages of PPE provided by FEMA until they opened the boxes. For example, providing child-sized gloves for adult care workers, masks that do not fit the face, and even gowns with no holes for hands have been provided that are of no use to healthcare workers on the front lines.
FEMA is providing face masks to health care providers in nursing homes when the face mask packaging even says they should not be used when caring for someone with COVID-19. Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, says “we’ve been treated like garbage by the federal response through this entire crisis. The emphasis has been on hospitals. Nursing homes have been neglected, even though nursing homes have been hardest hit by the virus.”
According to a FEMA official, the defective and expired equipment should not have been delivered but some things “slipped through the cracks.” However, this comes as little comfort to families with loved ones in nursing homes who they cannot see, cannot visit, or have fallen ill with COVID-19.
None of the nursing home equipment has included functional N95 respirators. FEMA claimed a second shipment would correct the problems but those second shipments also had unusable or faulty equipment. According to a retirement community in Virginia, a packing slip wrongly indicated the boxes contained 3,500 pairs of gloves when there were only 1,000 pairs of gloves.
Health regulators in other states have advised nursing homes not to use some of the FEMA-provided equipment. Meanwhile, nursing home residents suffer the majority of deaths caused by the coronavirus. According to a New York Times analysis, 40% of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have been connected with nursing homes.
Fake or Expired PPE Puts Caregivers and Residents at Risk
A fake N95 mask is not like a fake Gucci bag. When counterfeit, faulty, or expired face masks are relied upon, they put lives at risk. Despite the back-and-forth confusion over masks, masks have been shown to work and provide some level of protection for wearers and others they are around. There may also be evidence that wearing a mask can reduce the viral load, which can result in reduced symptoms for those that do catch COVID-19.
Nursing Home Negligence and COVID-19
Families with a parent or loved one in a nursing home know that the individual needs appropriate care. When a nursing home cuts corners to save costs, it puts the residents at risk of injury or illness. Filing a nursing home abuse claim can be a serious and difficult step, but it can be easier with the help of an experienced and trusted attorney. Call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.