AARP recently sent a letter to Governor John Carney and Secretary of Health Kara Odom Walker expressing AARP's opposition to nursing homes getting immunity for actions relating to COVID 19. Read the letter below:
Dear Governor Carney and Secretary Walker:
On behalf of our 186,000 members and all older Delawareans, AARP Delaware is sharing our strong opposition to any proposal that would grant immunity related to COVID-19 for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care (LTC) facilities. AARP has long fought for the rights of residents in nursing homes and other residential care facilities, to ensure their health, safety, quality of care, and quality of life. This includes the right of residents and their families to seek legal redress through the courts to hold facilities accountable when residents are harmed, neglected, or abused.
Nursing homes and other LTC facilities play an important role in America’s long-term services and supports (LTSS) system. There are 4,181nursing home residents in Delaware. During this pandemic, nursing homes and other residential care facilities face unprecedented challenges, and tragically, over 233 residents and staff have lost their lives. Without increased protective equipment, testing, and treatment protocols, many more will contract the coronavirus, and hundreds more people could die. While there may be some circumstances beyond facilities’ control and for which they should not be held responsible, it is essential that long-term care providers, as well as health care providers more broadly, remain responsible for any negligent actions to ensure that long-term care residents and their families have some protection and opportunity for redress.
Given that most inspections of nursing homes have been suspended, family in-person visits are effectively prohibited except in limited circumstances, and in-person LTC Ombudsman visits are similarly restricted, there are fewer eyes observing what is happening in facilities. Residents of nursing homes and other LTC facilities may be unable to advocate for themselves and now have limited access to people who can advocate on their behalf. This lack of oversight is alarming, and requires us to ensure that, when all else fails, residents and their families will still have access to the courts to seek redress.
Pursuing a nursing home neglect or abuse case in court is not easy to do. In Delaware, there are already many significant barriers to accessing the courts. No family member who has lost a loved one due to neglect or abuse pursues this course of action lightly. It is always an option of last resort, but it must remain an option.
Delaware should not strip away the rights and protections of residents. Nursing homes and other LTC facilities should know they will be held responsible for providing the level of quality care that is required of them, and for which they are being compensated. This also incentivizes facilities to self-correct by addressing problems to improve care.
AARP Delaware appreciates your consideration of these views and urges you to reject calls for immunity for LTC facilities. Families all across Delaware are looking to you to protect the health and safety of their loved ones living in nursing homes and other residential care facilities. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.
AARP Delaware State Director