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GOVERNOR ISSUES GUIDANCE ON LIABILITY FOR HEALTHCARE FACILILTIES

Nurse patient fight

In a memo issued earlier this spring, the Indiana State Department of Health has declared that “facilities and individuals providing healthcare services in response to a declared disaster emergency, such as the one declared because of COVID-19, may not be held civilly liable for care provided in response to that emergency event.”

There’s a big UNLESS, included in that exemption from liability: “…unless the care resulted from gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

To us at Ramey & Hailey Law, that simple word – “unless”- is highly meaningful. For the more than 40 years during which we have been helping families deal with nursing home neglect and abuse, we have seen more than our share of violations in facilities caring from the elderly in Indiana. Whether the facility is a nursing home, rehabilitation or convalescent center, rest home, or elder care facility, the owners of that facility can be held legally responsible when harm is caused to a patient or resident. The COVID-19 emergency may have clouded the issue, but the governor’s memo does not take away the responsibility facilities have towards the patients entrusted to their care.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes a “report card” detailing deficiencies in nursing homes, including staffing levels, the most critical component for providing quality nursing home care. This past spring, Indiana got a failing grade, and not for the first time. Even absent the extra demands for cleaning and sanitation imposed by the COVID-19 emergency, many of our state’s facilities were providing substandard patient protection and care.

Today, our attorneys are even more deeply concerned about nursing home patients in our state during this period when visitors are not allowed due to the pandemic. In addition to providing company and love, family members often provide vital monitoring of the level of care their loved one is receiving.

Nursing homes are asking states for immunity from civil suits, NPR reports. With more than 10,000 nursing home resident deaths from COVID-19, nursing homes and other health care facilities have been seeking, and gaining, temporary immunity from lawsuits. Reporter Ina Jaffee of NPR is asking the question that is on our mind – are poorly run nursing homes being given a pass?

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