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Reasons Behind So Many Deaths in the Nursing Homes Due to COVID-19

The Reasons Behind the Increase of Deaths
Due to COVID-19 in California’s Nursing Homes

The SARS-CoV-2 virus keeps claiming lives in California. According to the last Government report, up to the last week of July, there were more than 460,000 positive cases and more than 8,500 death provoked by COVID-19.

The press reports state that 3,846 nursing home residents and more than 100 staff members had died due to COVID-19 in California. These deaths represent approximately 40% of all deaths caused by the infection. But why do the nursing home residents keep being the primary victims in this pandemic?

Risk Factors

The nursing homes have become breeding grounds for COVID-19 because they combine many risk factors inside their walls. Among them: elderly with health problems, poorly trained personnel, lack of personal protective equipment, and the inability to control infections in emergencies.

However, this situation is not new. Last year, the statal inspectors found 85 violations at one of these centers in Bakersfield, including the lack of proper care for the residents, who had rotten teeth and swollen/blackened fingers.

Like this, there are other cases of negligence that have been documented by the press in recent weeks. Most of them have come to court, in which families claim justice for the wrongful death of their loved ones.

Hidden Diagnosis

James Ivey, who was a resident at the Hollywood Premier Healthcare Center since January 21th of this year, died of coronavirus. The problem? His family didn’t know that he was tested for COVID-19 weeks prior to his death. They were informed of the results one day before he died after putting pressure on the care center staff.

According to Jamie Ann Ivey, daughter of the victim, the Hollywood Premier staff called her two nights before the death of her father to let her know that his heart rate was very slow and asked if she wanted them to call 911.

To her request, the paramedics checked James Ivey, but they decided not to take him to the hospital to avoid exposing him to a possible COVID-19 contagion. The staff of the nursing home never told them that he was already infected.

The next morning, when she called to know about her father, Jamie Ann didn’t get a concrete answer. The nurse only enlisted the drugs her father was taking and mentioned that “ha was sleeping a lot.”

When she called that same night to know more about her father, the staff only mentioned that she should call again during the day. The next hours were anguishing and frustrating for the family because the members of the staff keep transferring her from one department to another without giving her a concrete answer about her father’s health.

Negligence increases COVID-19 cases in nursing homes

At last, she got to talk to the nurse in charge of James. She only said that he was doing better, but “he kept removing his oxygen mask because it bothered him.”

Confused for the fact that her father needed oxygen, Jamie asked the nurse if her father had been tested for COVID-19. She admitted that he underwent said test 15 days prior to that day and that the result was positive. 

James Ivey died the next day. The death certificate stated that COVID-19 was among the death causes.

It should be noted that, so far, 58 residents and 38 members of the Hollywood Premier staff have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, in addition to the death of 19 of them.

A Problem that Keeps Growing

Nevertheless, the Hollywood Premier is not the only nursing home with COVID-19 cases. A few days ago, the Reo Vista Healthcare Center, in San Diego, posted a statement on its website in which admits that they had 100 cases of coronavirus among their residents. The number is shocking since the center only has capacity for 135 people.

The nursing home administrator, Curtis White, affirms that the center is already working on changing this tendency, that’s why they restricted the access to all medical staff that doesn’t have an essential job. Besides, they have locked all the doors during the working hours and limited the communal activities among the residents.

The Reo Vista staff also adopted the infection control protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It should be said that this nursing home has a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which assesses the performance, safety levels, and quality of staff, among other criteria.

Old Problems

According to an investigation of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), realized to Medicare, California’s nursing homes have severe problems of infection control. Before the pandemic started, 70% of these facilities hadn’t implemented an infectious agent control program.

If it wasn’t enough, most of the nursing homes work with staff poorly paid and living below the federal poverty line. Hence, they require more than one job, a situation that increases the risk of exposure to coronavirus and other infections.

The investigation states that the low-quality ratings by the Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers could lead to knowing which facilities should be monitored during this public health crisis.

That is the case of the 73 nursing homes that had reported more than 10 deaths due to COVID-19. Medicare rated them as “below average” or “very below average.”

New Criteria for Visitations

Since Californa began its journey to reopening, there are new criteria for families to visit the nursing homes. Among these criteria, we can find:

  • Identify two family members or support people of the resident/patient.
  • Only one member of the family or support person can be at the facility at the time.
  • Two people can be present at the same time if the physical distance can be maintained with:
    • Intensive care patients
    • Patients or residents in palliative care

Despite that, many people still do not visit their relatives, so the residents continue in isolation and with the uncertainty of possible contagion from the staff or other residents.

If you think that your loved one is in a nursing home where he/she is not receiving proper care and his/her life is at risk during this pandemic of COVID-19, contact us. We can help you. Call us at (844) 824-2955 for a free evaluation of your case. Don’t let your loved ones be voiceless victims!


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