The nursing home industry, concerned about liability to patients and families for actions and failures during the crisis, has been pushing for legal immunity from lawsuits during what they see as an unprecedented medical emergency and disaster. More than 1/5th of all coronavirus deaths have been among those residing in or connected with nursing homes.
As of recently, six states had passed laws specifically protecting nursing homes and their workers and six more had enacted general protections that will probably protect nursing homes too. Those favoring this approach of sheltering health care workers argue that they were doing their best under the most difficult circumstances, and point out that extreme or egregious wrongdoing would not be protected.
Employers across the board have sought such protections too, though Worker’s Comp laws often preempt employee lawsuits against employers, per se.
Patient advocates, families and critics of immunity push for more accountability by care facilities and employers, rather than less. They seek more openness and communication from nursing homes, who often failed to provide information or respond to family members’ concerns. They want virtual visits during the quarantine. And they are demanding increased staffing requirements with more training and better infection control. These are constant, ongoing challenges for nursing homes, where infection is one of the primary adverse events that can befall a patient.
It remains to be seen of course how these legal issues affecting care facilities and employers and employees generally will be resolved