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Liability and COVID-19

Angie SzumlinskiNews

On this continuing journey through the COVID-19 pandemic and facing the challenges of resident and staff illness and death, our grief is immeasurable. As a former provider, I feel the heartache, loss and unspeakable havoc this pandemic has placed on our centers.

We have been challenged with PPE and staffing shortages, residents with new onset of depression, isolation and loneliness; but at the end of the day, we are also accountable for maintaining the status quo. In an article published in the New York Daily News, it describes a class action lawsuit being filed against a New Jersey nursing home where police found 17 bodies “piled in a makeshift morgue” during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. This rings bells in my head from August 2005 when Katrina hit New Orleans and the hospital had no choice but to use their chapel as a makeshift morgue. More patients died in that hospital than there was space to keep their remains.

Ugly? Yes. Does it happen? Yes; as evidenced by the article, the remains of the 17 residents were not stored in a manner that provides respect and safety. However, the article also goes on to say that the facility did not take proper precautions to protect its residents against COVID-19 and failed to notify the families of the residents whose bodies were “stuffed in a small room.”

We are not here to stand as judge and jury. We are here as a community of providers, here to support and protect our residents and fellow providers. It is important that we stay aware of liability issues that are being brought out in the press and notify your liability carrier/agent in the event you hear rumblings of similar claims. Remember, we can only do what we do well if we are trained, stay current, and follow current guidelines.

Stay well, stay safe and stay tuned.