Nursing Home Industry Makes Plea for Protective Masks and Gowns for Workers

On Friday, March 13, Illinois nursing homes, along with every other long-term care facility in the U.S., were told to shut down visits to residents, take steps to isolate residents from one another and start screening for coronavirus symptoms. In Illinois, a nursing home located southwest of Chicago is battling the state’s first long-term care facility coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, March 19, nearly 50 people, including both residents and staff at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook, were tested positive for the highly-contagious disease. Many more staff and residents are expected to be confirmed. Worldwide, “more than 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported, and about 8,200 have died,” according to the White House.

Adding concerns to an already highly susceptible group of people, comes a plea from the industry leader representing the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes. David Gifford, chief medical officer at the American Health Care Association, is calling for drastic support efforts and warning that many of these facilities are likely to run out of the tools, resources, staff, and personal protective equipment necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and treat infected residents. Gear includes protective masks and gowns. The industry group has asked other health care facilities such as dental offices to donate any unneeded supplies to nursing homes in their communities.

Gifford also said that his group estimates “1 in 5 nursing homes could run out of protective equipment next week, and a similar number the week following.” Lack of support may lead staffers to use the same face mask for an entire shift or none at all.

Why Are Nursing Home Residents at Such a High Risk of COVID-19?

About 1.4 million patients are cared for in nursing homes and rehab facilities within such homes, mainly elderly and severely disabled people who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. This group of older adults carries the characteristics that put them at higher risk of illness and death and have limitations which impair their ability to respond to an infectious disease or emergency, such as:

  • Disabilities that have impaired their mobility.
  • diminished sensory awareness due to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia
  • multiple chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes
  • social and economic limitations related to health care coverage and access to medical resources
  • disruptions in the vital support systems they rely on, such as understaffed nursing homes due to worker illness
  • lack of caregiver preparedness and emergency management by the facilities they reside in

A 2019 investigation by Kaiser Health News and The Chicago Tribune found that at least a quarter of Chicago-area nursing homes aren’t providing the mandated 2.5 hours of direct care daily for residents. Understaffing is expected to be one of the primary factors in the spread of coronavirus in long-term care facilities. Many nursing homes didn’t meet minimum staffing requirements, pre-coronavirus pandemic. They will be challenged even further as workers become infected and told to stay home and self-quarantine.

Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Related to Coronavirus

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home, we can help. Please reach out to Levin & Perconti, a Chicago-based law firm ready to provide you with a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: A message from Attorney Steven Levin, Protecting Our Loved Ones in Nursing Homes During the Coronavirus Outbreak