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Negligence Contributed to Coronavirus Outbreaks in SC Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have been called “ground zero” in the COVID-19 crisis. Nationwide, nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in nursing facilities. In South Carolina, more than one-third of those who have lost their lives because of COVID-19 were nursing home residents, even though these residents make up only about 12% of those who have tested positive for the virus.

There are 194 nursing homes in South Carolina, and even though the state put restrictions on visitors to these facilities back in early April, coronavirus outbreaks have occurred in several of them. The facilities with the most serious outbreaks tend to be the ones that held the lowest 2019 quality ratings, and many of them had been cited in recent years for violations of standards that were meant to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Nursing homes constitute a “perfect storm” of conditions that would pose a threat of widespread fatalities with a virus as deadly as COVID-19. Coronaviruses spread most rapidly within indoor settings that are climate controlled where people are in closed quarters for an extended period of time. This is why in addition to nursing homes, many outbreaks happened in factories, meatpacking plants, on cruise ships, and within ethnic communities where large families tend to live under the same roof and often in more compact spaces such as apartments.

What made things even deadlier for nursing home residents is their vulnerability to COVID-19. This particular type of coronavirus hits the elderly and infirmed especially hard, and according to the American Council on Science and Health, more than 80% of COVID-related deaths have happened to individuals who were 65 years of age or older. If you add in the 55-64 age group, this number goes up to 92%.

There is no doubt that nursing home patients are the most vulnerable group with regards to the coronavirus, and even under the best of conditions, it would have been difficult to fully contain the spread of COVID-19 within these facilities. Unfortunately, many of the nursing homes in our state did not take this situation as seriously as they should have, and a large number of them failed to take the steps needed to protect our elderly loved ones.

Complaints were filed against several South Carolina nursing homes alleging that residents have been repeatedly exposed to “dangerous or unsanitary conditions.” Some of the specific complaints include allegations that facilities refused to test residents for the coronavirus (as was required by the state) and that facilities refused to provide adequate supplies and equipment to protect staff and residents.

Many nursing home employees tried to sound the alarm with state regulators about what was going on in these facilities. Here are just a few of the complaints that were lodged with the South Carolina DHEC:

“The residents in this facility are in immediate danger as staff are not following isolation precautions as directed for COVID 19”

“We, the staff are scared for ourselves and our residents, but we are scared to stand up because we will lose our job”

“Based on what I saw for my two shifts, the patients in inpatient rehab would most likely be safer at home with family members”

The COVID-19 outbreak is the most serious public health crisis our country has faced in decades, and it is especially tragic that so many of our elderly loved ones have perished in nursing homes – largely due to negligence on the part of the facility. It is very important that those who are responsible for allowing these substandard conditions to occur be held fully accountable, not only so that victims’ families can be compensated, but also to help ensure that this situation never repeats itself!

Contact an Experienced South Carolina Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer  

If you have recently lost a loved one or a loved one has become critically ill because of a COVID-19 outbreak in a South Carolina nursing home, you may be entitled to damages. At Peake and Fowler, we understand that this is a difficult time for you, and we are here to help you deal with the complicated legal process. For a free consultation to review your case, message us online or call our office today at 803-788-4370. We look forward to serving you!

Anti-Psychotic Drugs Remain Dangerously Overprescribed in Nursing Homes

While nursing homes and assisted living facilities have long known of the risks, anti-psychotic drugs continue to be provided to residents for whom these medicines are not only unnecessary, but could even prove deadly.

Anti-psychotic medications have long been promoted by pharmaceutical companies to nursing homes as a way to make residents more docile and compliant. Rather than hiring additional staff or providing training to nursing staff to help them understand how best to work with elderly patients with behavioral issues, facilities often use these drugs essentially as “chemical restraints,” according to an official from the Center for Medicare Advocacy. These drug companies, seeing an increase in their profits, have been found guilty in some cases of paying kickbacks to prescribing doctors and pharmacy networks who pushed the drugs to their nursing home clients and patients. One expert estimates that approximately one in every five nursing home or assisted living facility residents has been prescribed with anti-psychotic medication they do not need.

While use of a drug for an unintended purpose is often a bad idea, anti-psychotic drugs are particularly dangerous to the elderly. These drugs, designed for sufferers of severe mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, carry a black-box warning from the FDA stating that the drugs should not be provided to frail elderly persons or those with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In fact, the drugs have been known to cause anxiety, confusion, agitation, disorientation, and death among Alzheimer’s patients or other elderly persons. In one tragic case, a California woman had placed her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, in a nursing home for physical rehabilitation. When the elderly woman entered the home, she was able to perform basic self-grooming tasks for herself and was able to eat and walk unassisted. However, after being given an anti-psychotic drug by those administering her care, the woman swiftly deteriorated and died.

Not only does unnecessary administration of these drugs often put patients’ health in peril, it violates the law. Under South Carolina’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities, residents have a right to be free from unnecessary chemical restraints, such as medications administered for the purpose of making them more docile and controllable. Use of such drugs unnecessarily qualifies as elder abuse, and those who believe their loved ones may be a victim of such abuse should speak with an attorney to explore their legal options.

For assistance with claims of nursing home abuse in South Carolina, contact the compassionate and seasoned Columbia nursing home neglect and abuse law firm Peake & Fowler for a consultation, at 803-788-4370.