Since the COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus, began earlier this year, Maryland state health surveyors have visited nursing homes to ensure they are following guidelines needed to keep residents safe during this public health crisis. Yet, the state of Maryland does not require these surveyors to be tested for coronavirus, despite the fact that these same surveyors have fined nursing homes for not testing their residents, as first reported by The Baltimore Sun. This is a gross double standard that needs to be remedied in order to prioritize the safety of our most vulnerable populations during this difficult time.
Maryland Department of Health spokesman Charles Gischlar confirmed the lack of testing guidelines for state surveyors, noting that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — also does not mandate any testing requirement for these surveyors. While surveyors are screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering nursing homes and at their own offices, this does not do anything to prevent those who are infected with the virus and are asymptomatic from spreading it to others, as Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick County) expressed her concern to The Baltimore Sun.
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With more than 50 surveyors, counting 17 surveyors in training, this oversight can be immensely detrimental to the residents of the state’s 226 nursing homes, which have now all been surveyed. Over 50 of these nursing homes were fined for violating safety regulations amid the pandemic, from $250 to tens of thousands of dollars.
Not to mention, CMS has only recently lifted restrictions concerning nursing home visits, which means that nursing home residents were barred from seeing their loved ones while health surveyors still put them at risk for contracting coronavirus. According to Young, “The reality is most of the cases getting into long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, are coming from the outside, from people who work there.”
The Baltimore Sun reported that Young intends to pass a list of health standards and confront the state health department regarding the lack of testing guidelines for its own surveyors. Tragically, it seems many nursing home infections and deaths may have been avoidable. Thus, this double standard needs to be remedied immediately in the name of public health.
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Our attorneys are experienced and skilled in representing nursing home residents who have been abused and/or neglected. Backed by 75 years of collective experience, we understand how complex nursing home cases can become. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect are very common in these homes in the United States, as rules and regulations surrounding residential care facilities are violated often. With no coronavirus vaccine currently available to the public, the pandemic continues to pose a threat to senior citizens and their loved ones. If you or your family member was infected with COVID-19 in a nursing home due to the carelessness of another party, Brown & Barron, LLC might be able to help.
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