Last week, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR.ORG), issued a press release asking Governor Newsom to reverse a CDPH directive which stated: “SNFs shall not refuse to admit or readmit a resident based on their status as a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.” Patricia McGinnis, CANHR’s Executive Director, says in the release: “California’s directive is nothing less than a death sentence for countless residents. The State should instead look to alternative locations such as hotels and conference centers as much safer places to send COVID-19 patients for care.”
We at York Law Firm are proud members of CANHR andecho the Executive Director’s words. Allowing people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus to come into facilities where an elderly population is already extremely vulnerable and at risk of catching the infection, makes no sense, and these types of facilities do not have the appropriate staffing levels to keep residents safe. If the objective of a public health directive is to save lives, how can we justify sending sick people into an otherwise healthy population in facilities that are chronically understaffed?
CANHR correctly points out that many California nursing homes were already understaffed and ill-prepared for COVID-19, and that housekeeping at most facilities is poor. Moreover, routine inspections and investigations of facilities were recently canceled. Ombudsmen and families are being locked out of facilities. During all this, when families and oversight agencies are prevented from walking in the doors of skilled nursing facilities, why would anyone think it a smart idea to start sending recently infected COVID-19 patients?
We believe that this is a short-sighted financial decision. The California Department of Public Health is responding to other state agencies which are telling it that there are no funds available to put infected patients anywhere else. Send them to skilled nursing facilities, they say, because we have a financial system set up to accommodate them there. The skilled nursing facilities themselves can’t refuse to admit them because the state has the power of the purse string.
It’s beyond cruel, selfish, and shortsighted. If skilled nursing home operators follow the directive, senior citizens will die quickly and needlessly.
In New York City, according to the New York Times, one in four deaths are happening in such facilities. Sending COVID-19 patients into an otherwise healthy nursing home population is a death sentence for dozens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of senior citizens.
If you have a loved one in a California skilled nursing facility, we urge you to call, email or write Governor Newsom and ask that he reverse the CDPH directive. Many lives are hanging dangerously in the balance.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases.