Will Gov. Newsom Protect Nursing Homes From Liability For Covid-19 Deaths

Nursing homes and senior care facilities across California have been ground zero for Covid-19 cases and deaths. Family members of victims have said that so many of these facilities were not prepared for something like this and did not do enough once it made itself known to protect residents from becoming infected and they want someone to answer for that.

The L.A. Times reports:

According to the California Health Department, 30% of those who have died in Los Angeles County were residents of long-term care facilities; more than 70% of the deaths in Long Beach have been of nursing home residents.

Because of the threat of lawsuits, healthcare providers have joined together to help protect: healthcare facilities, residential care facilities, senior living providers and health service plans, and all their employees from civil and criminal lawuits, so they've put together specific wording for a order for Gov. Newsom that would stipulate that these facilities and their employees could not be sanctioned or found criminally or civilly liable unless there was "clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct."

The letter to Gov. Newsom reads in part:

The COVID-19 pandemic is projected to affect so many people that health care providers will be forced to allocate scarce medical resources among too many patients who need them. Given this stark reality, we must have one goal: to save as many lives as possible. With that goal, we request the Governor issue an Executive Order including the following language, which will provide a level of liability protection adequate for care providers to save Californians’ lives:
During the current COVID-19 state of emergency, health care facilities, residential care facilities, senior living providers, health care service plans, physicians and other health care professionals, and all employees thereof, are hereby requested to render services to Californians. In recognition of these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, such facilities, plans, physicians, professionals, and employees shall be immune from any administrative sanction or criminal or civil liability or claim for any injury, death, or loss alleged to have resulted from any act, omission, or decision made related to providing or arranging services, including but not limited to acts, omissions, or decisions undertaken because of a lack of resources, absent proof by no less than clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct as measured by a standard of care that incorporates all of the circumstances of the emergency. All state statutes and regulations are hereby waived to the extent necessary to achieve this immunity. The unenforceability or invalidity of any part of this paragraph shall not have an impact on the enforceability or validity of any other part of this paragraph.

There's been no word from Gov. Newsom's office yet about the request but legal experts say it's likely he will issue some kind of order offering at least some protections for these facilities and their employees.

But here's the problem, the industry as a whole had problems even before the Covid-19 pandemic, especially because 80% of these facilities in California are for-profit corporate facilities with a history of problems like: staff shortages, low-paid workers and high infection rates.

The L.A. Times reports:

Toby Edelman is a senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy based in Washington, D.C. Edelman has long tracked nursing homes, which she said tend to have past patterns of poor infection control and other violations. She points out that inspectors regularly cite facilities for a common violation —a failure of staff to wash their hands.

And, we are all aware by now that one of the most effective ways to protect against Covid-19 is....to wash your hands.

Supporters of these facilities say they're so important to the healthcare industry because they can help ease the burden on hospitals in a critical time. Critics say to protect these facilities from any kind of lawsuit or responsibility is wrong because it allows them to continue to operate irresponsibly.

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