Coronavirus Triggers Spike in Nursing Home Vacancy Rates
May 18, 2021 | Personal Injury
New York nursing home patients are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in droves. But the coronavirus-induced nursing home crisis might be entering a new phase.
New York’s vacancy rate is three times higher now that it was before the pandemic.
Many nursing home residents died during the height of the pandemic, and “building that population back is going to take time,” remarked Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association director Michael Balboni.
There might be a deeper problem. According to the AARP, almost half of Americans say COVID-19 has decreased their confidence in the nursing home system.
Other factors also contributed to the declining nursing home population. Hospital suspended elective surgical procedures, which meant no rehabbing patients went to long-term care facilities.
Furthermore, New York cut nursing home funding before the pandemic, in an effort to encourage more at-home care.
Nursing Home Occupancy and the Possibility of Injury
Occupancy rates in long-term care facilities have dropped, but they are still dangerously high. 80 percent occupancy is usually considered the maximum occupancy rate in a nursing home.
The nationwide average is still well above that threshold. Overfull nursing homes are breeding grounds for negligent injuries.
High occupancy means high resident-to-staff ratios. Many nursing home residents cannot take care of themselves. They depend entirely on staff members.
The higher the ratio gets; the more tasks go unfulfilled. Dangerously high ratios are especially a problem during low census periods, like weekends and holidays.
Furthermore, high resident-to-staff ratios usually deflate morale. Everyone is overworked.
Low morale usually leads to high turnover. In low unemployment economies, it’s often difficult to replace workers. To compensate, nursing home administrators often hire under qualified individuals.
The most common approach involves hiring a licensed vocational nurse to fill a spot that rightfully belongs to a registered nurse.
Bedsore injuries are a good example of how these two problems work. If residents turn over in bed once every two or three hours, pressure ulcers cannot develop.
However, at an understaffed facility, there might be no one doing rounds during certain periods. Alternatively, one employee, instead of two or three, might visit a room. It’s hard for one person to turn someone over in bed.
Furthermore, Stage I bedsores usually go away by themselves. But an under qualified employee might not be able to spot these early-stage injuries, especially in the dark. As a result, the victim’s injury gets worse and quickly becomes life threatening.
Duty to Prevent Negligent Injury
Nursing home residents are invitees in New York. Therefore, the facility has a duty of care to prevent negligent injury. This duty requires facilities to ensure that residents are safe and frequently inspect the premises to ensure continued safety.
Preventing injuries like bedsores requires adequate staffing levels and a highly qualified staff. A letdown in either area could be a breach of duty.
This duty also applies in other areas of resident safety, such as fall prevention and infectious disease prevention.
Older residents usually have pre-existing conditions which increase their risk of falling and also increase the severity of their injuries. A majority of nursing home patients fall, and most of these individuals can never live independently again.
Nursing home responsibilities are also clear in terms of infectious disease prevention. COVID-19 protocols included social distancing, masking, sanitization, and health screening.
It appears that the government may have altered coronavirus illness statistics in this area. Therefore, a loved one may have contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home, and the survivors might not know it.
Our New York personal injury attorneys are here to help victims and survivors. But you have a limited amount of time to act.
Knowledge of Hazard
To obtain compensation for a negligent injury, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the nursing homeowner knew, or should have known, about the hazard which caused injury.
Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes things like staff level reports, lack of social distancing, and restroom cleaning reports.
Since discovery happens relatively late in the process, a nursing home negligence settlement might not happen right away. If a case settles too quickly, the complete situation might not ever come to light.
As a result, victims are denied both fair compensation and justice for their losses.
Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually involves the time-notice rule.
The longer a hazard persists, like a staffing shortage or a wet spot on the floor, the more likely it is that the owners should have known about it and should have taken proper preventative action.
The coronavirus crisis has abated in area nursing homes, but we are by no means out of the woods yet.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.
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