On August 3, 2020, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a law that permits nursing homes and hospitals to be held accountable for harm and neglect caused by Covid-19.
This is a major update on corona virus immunity and extremely positive news for the victims and families who had their legal rights stripped away in the early days following the declaration of the pandemic.
With rapid succession: The Covid-19 pandemic is declared; New York lock down; Governor Cuomo signs an Executive Oder giving the health care industry blanket immunity for all but the most egregious care.
IMMUNITY: MISGUIDED AND CAUSES FURTHER HARM
Clearly, we are in unprecedented times and amid a health care crisis. However, accountability and responsibility are bedrocks of safety that prevent harm and death. Legal compensation and accountability are constitutional rights and stalwarts in preventing further harm and promoting safety.
Unquestionably, our health care workers are genuine heroes and deserve the highest praise. They were thrust into a war, often without proper safeguards. This failure to provide personal protection equipment must not recur and needs to be a part of the calculus going forward.
However, denying redress in the courts to those harmed is shortsighted and plainly unfair. New York has frozen evictions and foreclosures, and Court proceedings have been suspended. A temporary moratorium on lawsuits regarding Covid-19 would have made more sense and provided time for thoughtful debate.
WHY THE RUSH?
In the earliest days of the pandemic, many in the health care industry lobbied Governor Cuomo for immunity (https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/07/16/money-flowed-into-campaign-coffers-as-ny-lawmakers-passed-immunity-protection-for-hospitals-nursing-homes/).
This was a conscious effort to immunize themselves from responsible conduct, as opposed to putting forth resources to protect their workers. This selfish act belies the selflessness of dedicated healthcare workers who gave so much of themselves.
A SIMPLE TRUTH
With rare exception, health care workers never pay one dollar in settlement of a tort case. Payments are made by insurance companies or the institutions themselves. Workers are covered for all but the most egregious (i.e. intentionally harming someone) of acts.
Far too many nursing homes were involved in systemic and egregious failures. They failed to follow industry standards, good and accepted safe practices, and longstanding recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding virus preparation. This caused unnecessary and preventable harm and death.
The President of the Healthcare Association of New York State, Bea Grause, claims that “this legislation would make it that much harder for hospitals and nursing homes to recruit health care workers, expand capacity and provide care to all patients and residents”. False!
A lack of personal protection equipment has hindered the industry in hiring workers. Going into the pandemic our nursing homes were habitually understaffed (https://www.injurylaw-ny.com/nursing-home-staffing-requirements/). The industry sadly does not hire sufficient staff, pay fair wages, or train these individuals.
They claim poverty, but the facts proof otherwise (https://nursinghome411.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LTCCC-Policy-Brief-NYS-Nursing-Home-Ownership-Quality.pdf).
Most importantly, the rights of those harmed must not be ignored. More than 6,000 (the true number will likely never be known) residents of nursing homes have died from virus. This number does not include the workers, their family members or support staff.
The way the health care industry attempts to frame this conversation is inappropriate. They are not being “protected”. Missing from their narrative is that nursing home residents and those who care for them were not “protected”. Shielding the industry from accountability provides license to simply do it again. Accountability and remedy are what the law provides. Do not take that away from those among us who are most vulnerable.
WHO WE ARE
If you or someone you know is injured please consider contacting Adams Law Firm, P.C. We have a successfully advocated on behalf of those injured due to harm, abuse and neglect throughout New York State and Northern New Jersey. There is no legal fee until we are successful.
Should you have any question, please contact us toll free at 888-MY-911-LAW (888.699.1152), or by email at [email protected] Thank you.