If your loved one has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) while receiving care at a hospital or care home, and they have sadly passed away, you may be able to sue for medical negligence.
Coronavirus has taken the world by storm, causing many to struggle with its devastating effects. For the elderly, it is a particularly ruthless respiratory illness with an unusually high mortality rate. To curb its damaging effect, staff at hospitals and care homes have responded bravely, showing commitment beyond their job descriptions.
Care homes in particular have admitted an increased number of patients, and staff working there have even learned new skills to provide adequate care to these vulnerable ones. Sadly, there are still those who have suffered unnecessarily or lost their lives due to negligent treatment in a care home. This may be due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, failing to comply with social distancing rules or a lack of testing for residents and staff of the care home.
Why Coronavirus Can Be Deadly for the Elderly
Older people face the greatest risk when it comes to COVID-19. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the mortality rate is around 1 to 3 percent, there has been a significant increase in the mortality rate among older patients – 0.3 percent among those in their 40s to over 8 percent among those in their 70s and about 13.4 percent among patients 80 and older.
While it is not quite clear why COVID-19 has such a deadly effect on the elderly, there are a number of factors, experts think, could play a role in this astronomical death rate:
- The immune system – the body’s defense system – weakens with age.
- Referred to as “novel coronavirus”, the virus is different from other known viruses; humans have not developed immunity to it.
- Underlying health conditions play a major role in cases that require intensive care, as well as those that become fatal, according to early data. Many of these health conditions are common among the elderly.
- With no vaccines for prevention and no cure, existing medicines have limited capacity when it comes to treating the disease.
As things stand, an older person who is exposed to the virus faces immediate danger. Preventing exposure is key to preserving lives, especially among the older population.
Why Older People in Nursing or Care Homes are Especially at Risk
With the spread going largely uncontained, nursing care homes now account for a significant portion of coronavirus deaths in the UK. In addition to factors such as weakening body defense systems that already make COVID-19 particularly deadly for the elderly, the nursing home problem is concerning in other ways.
- With lots of people living in confined spaces, social/physical distancing is difficult in nursing homes. The setting here feels more like a college dormitory or prison – environments where the spread of infectious diseases will be difficult to contain due to close living.
- Often, the elderly ones in nursing homes are vulnerable due to poor health. They may need help to handle routine activities, which makes direct and close contact with others necessary.
- Problems such as understaffing, lack of personal protective equipment are common in nursing homes.
Failing to acknowledge the risks posed by the novel coronavirus is probably the single biggest mistake any nursing home or hospital can make. These facilities must take the virus very seriously and ensure they adhere to all health and safety guidelines.
Some of the ways nursing homes can be liable for medical negligence during a COVID-19 outbreak include:
- Failing to frequently and properly clean and disinfect all shared surfaces
- Failing to mandate all members of staff to use proper protective gear
- Requiring exposed or ill members of staff to report to work. This can cause the spread of coronavirus within the facility
- Poor staffing, making it difficult for health and safety guidelines to be followed
- Failing to screen residents and personnel for COVID-19 symptoms early, which can allow the spread of the infection
- Failing to report possible and confirmed COVID-19 cases to the appropriate authorities
The present challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic do not erase the duty of a nursing home to ensure the safety of her residents. If a nursing home fails to protect the health of you or your loved one, and has exposed you to coronavirus, you may be to entitled medical negligence claims.
How Can Nursing Homes Reduce the Spread of Coronavirus?
The government has set guidelines to help nursing homes protect the health of their residents. While every nursing home can set and work with their own rules, it must be in line with the government’s guidelines. Rules set by some nursing homes generally include:
- Visits from friends and family to nursing homes should be temporarily suspended. This way, residents are able to socialize and the risk of coronavirus being brought into the nursing home will be minimal.
- Suspension of day clubs that allow non-residents into nursing homes on a daily basis. This allows nursing home personnel to focus on caring for the residents and, with less activity from the outside, the chances of coronavirus transmission will be minimal.
- Some nursing homes may have changed their admittance criteria to allow for isolation periods, or even stop admitting new residents altogether.
- Changes to staff recruitment policies. This may mean increased medical checks for potential recruits before they resume.
- Access to PPE by staff. This not only protects the nursing home personnel, but ensures residents are protected from exposure, as the PPE is changed regularly.
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Nursing Home Coronavirus Claims
In some cases, coronavirus may find its way into a nursing care home due to failure to follow the right processes. In cases like this, where residents suffer harm by the virus, the nursing home may be considered negligent. Although making medical negligence claims will not undo the effects of the harm you or your loved one have suffered, it can help to cover costs for your medical support or funeral costs. It may also help the nursing home learn to manage similar situations better in future.
While many nursing and care homes are currently going over and beyond to navigate this difficult situation, it can be concerning when a resident passes away as a result of exposure to coronavirus. If you believe you or your loved one have suffered harm due to coronavirus related negligence, get in touch with medical negligence solicitors as early as possible. They will help assess the situation to understand what the nursing home could have done to protect you, and if any breach of duty occurred, they will determine if you have a valid claim.
Medical Negligence Direct is currently monitoring the coronavirus situation, to remain abreast of any changes to the liability of hospitals and nursing homes in the country. We offer free, no obligation advice when you call us on 0800 644 4240. Working with a panel of expert medical negligence solicitors makes it possible for us to assign a specialist to your case.
Give us a call today to find out if you can make a coronavirus care home claim. We will be happy to speak with you at your convenience.