According to records obtained by the Baltimore Sun, sixty-four nursing homes in Maryland failed to meet minimum standards for COVID infection controls. All 226 state-certified nursing homes were inspected. Most of the nursing homes were given small fines on the condition that they present plans to improve infection controls. Several nursing homes with more severe infractions were given fines that ranged from $70,000 to $380,000.“Even before COVID, your typical, run-of-the-mill seasonal viruses would spread throughout nursing homes, resulting in the deaths of residents, and it’s just sort of accepted, despite the fact that many if not most of these deaths could be avoided with better infection controls,” said Leah Barron, a founding partner at Brown & Barron, a Baltimore law firm specializing in cases of nursing home negligence. “I’m glad that the inspections revealed these issues in these cases, but I think we all know that even the larger fines we just saw are too low to compel real industry change.”The largest fine of $380,000 went to Sagepoint Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center where COVID took the lives of at least 37 people, according to the Sun. A Sykesville, Maryland nursing was fined as much as $315,000 after an inspection by the Maryland Department of Health found that the facility posed “immediate jeopardy” to the safety of residents. It was found that the facilities did little to isolate COVID-infected residents from other healthy residents, and often even the staff were unaware who had COVID and who didn’t. Even upon follow-up inspections, many of the CDC’s guidelines continued to be disregarded. In other cases, facilities failed to meet other CDC guidelines, including reporting COVID data.The nursing home population has suffered a disproportionately large number cases and deaths due to COVID. One reason that nursing homes have been ravaged by the coronavirus is related to the fact that the population of nursing homes tend to elderly people who are the most susceptible to viruses of any kind. Many of them also have medical conditions that make them more likely to have severe or fatal cases of COVID. They also live in close proximity and share social spaces and activities, which puts healthy individuals at risk of transmission from infected residents. However, that is only half of the issue.
For many years, the nursing home industry has known about the looming disaster of a deadly virus, and even a pandemic-level event was a question of when rather than if. The standards for infection controls to mitigate the spread of such a virus have been in place for years. Sadly, the nursing home industry, in its pursuit of profit, has deemed the cost of fines and loss of life an acceptable cost of doing business, rather than invest in the equipment, personnel, and training required to meet the already low standards of government inspections for infection controls.
“When you think of the tragedy, of all of the lives that were lost in nursing homes due to COVID, it is important to remember that much of this was avoidable,” said Brian Brown, a founding partner at Brown & Barron, a Baltimore law firm specializing in cases of nursing home negligence. “For many years, the people who own and manage nursing homes knew that this type of viral disaster was inevitable unless they invested in better infection controls, and they simply made a business decision to risk the fines and skimp on the preparations that would be necessary to protect residents and their employees.
Maryland has an estimated 23,000 nursing home residents and patients and 27,600 staff across the state, according to the state association.
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