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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Senior Care Facilities Seek Legal Immunity During Coronavirus Pandemic

 April 22, 2020 at 11:30 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Perhaps the most vulnerable of vulnerable populations for the CoPath virus are the residents of nursing homes. Clusters of the virus have emerged in these care facilities across the state and country. Earlier this month we watched as a senior home with Kofoed virus. Patients in Riverside was evacuated because the staff refused to show up for work. Now the state has released data on which senior care facilities have residents who've tested positive for the virus and the senior care industry is asking for immunity from potential lawsuits resulting from mistakes made during the Corona virus outbreak. I'm joined by KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sharma Anamika. Welcome. Thank you, Maureen. It's good to be with you. What prompted the state to release this data on Corona virus in nursing homes Speaker 2: 00:50 Marine, the state just got a ton of pressure. They got pressure from families who have relatives in nursing homes. They got pressure from staff, from people who actually live there. The residents themselves and from people who advocate for these residents and the arguments for releasing this information were pretty obvious. The families, they want to know this information because they might want to move their parents out or at least get some of the concerns that they have about maybe infection control practices or other issues resolved and workers at these places who might have your own medical conditions or live with people who do it might also want to decide whether to continue working there or, or just quit. And there's another more practical argument. If nursing homes or certain nursing homes are in distress, if they don't have, and that staff, if they don't have enough supplies, if they don't have the infection control under control, then other people can come in and help them. They could probably get healthcare workers from elsewhere. They could get additional protected gear if they need it. So there's that practical aspect of if you need help, tell us, we'll help you. Speaker 1: 02:03 Tell us about the nursing homes that have had positive co-fund 19 cases here in San Diego. Speaker 2: 02:08 Well, there are 11 of them. There's a place called country Hills post acute and alcohol at least as of last Friday. Country Hills post acute had reported 19 residents who had covered 19 there's another place in alcohol called the Bradley court. It had the second highest number. It had 12 cases in the residence and less than 11 among workers. We don't know much else about the facilities that have covered 19 in San Diego County. I reached out to some of them at, didn't hear back from any of them. Speaker 1: 02:42 How many coven 19 deaths have happened in these homes in San Diego County? Speaker 2: 02:47 Well that's the a number that we don't have. We, the County has broken down some of this information but they haven't extracted homes out of the total tally that they've given us. They combined the nursing home figures with numbers from other congregate care facilities like assisted living communities and rehab facilities. And the last time we actually got an answer from the County was about a week ago and at that time it was more than 20 deaths for all three of those facilities or those types of facilities. And I imagine that the figure is a lot higher now. Speaker 1: 03:25 There's also been complaints that this data is really incomplete because of what it leaves out about other facilities, other congregate care facilities. Speaker 2: 03:34 That's right, Maureen. I mean it doesn't include the number of cases for people who live in assisted living communities. These are retirement communities that you see all over San Diego County, all over the state. The people who live in these facilities, they're older, they're frail, they have medical conditions. They're just as susceptible to Coke at 19 and they are experiencing carbon 19, both among residents and workers. And yet there is no requirement as of yet by the federal government or the state to require these facilities to report the number of COBIT cases they have. Um, and to report the number of deaths. Now I should say that the County is monitoring this. Um, it does appear that the state is monitoring this. And last Friday, the state sent out in advisory to these assisted living facilities that that they are to notify the families of residents, uh, at these senior care facilities or retirement communities, uh, where they have had COBIT 19 cases Speaker 1: 04:43 on the heels of that there's a push to relieve these facilities from liability for decisions made during the pandemic. Tell us more about that. Speaker 2: 04:53 Yeah. Well there is a group of health providers including industry associations for both assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They want governor Newson to sign an executive order that would give them immunity from prosecution and lawsuits during the pandemic. They say that that kind of immunity or that level of immunity would better enable them to save lives without worrying about the decisions being second guessed later. But advocates for people who live in these homes say that, that if that happens, it would remove the last layer of protection that these residents have. Here's what Pat McGinnis, she's the executive director of California advocates for nursing home reform said earlier this week. Speaker 3: 05:40 What did we do? Basically is excused elder abuse. We worked long and hard to get the elder abuse laws established in California. Speaker 2: 05:48 Nursing homes were already in pretty bad shape. A survey last month by the federal government found that nearly half of these had workers who were calling in sick due to due to Covance 19. Um, and this is on top of being [inaudible] understaffed just in ordinary times. Almost three quarters of the people who responded are the facilities that responded to the survey said that they had shortages in this personal protective equipment like uh, masks and gloves and gowns and shoe covers. So this is like at the start of this pandemic, these facilities were already hurting. Speaker 1: 06:30 Governor Newsome has spoken of the most vulnerable time and time again in his news conferences. What more do advocates say the state could be doing to protect senior care residents? Speaker 2: 06:41 At the top of the list is they want those, those inspectors sent back in to these facilities to monitor what's going on in, in treating the Cove of 19 people and all of the rest of the people that live in these facilities that is at the top of their list. Secondly, they just want more transparency. They want, they want to know how many deaths are happening. They want to know if these facilities need additional equipment. Um, they just want more oversight. Speaker 1: 07:09 I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter, Amica Sharma Anamika. Thank you very much. It was good talking to you, Maureen.

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Perhaps the most vulnerable of vulnerable populations for the Covid virus are the residents of nursing homes. Clusters of the virus have emerged in these care facilities across the state and the country.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments