Lawsuit Alleges Negligence Caused Five COVID-19 Deaths At Nursing Home
A lawsuit filed on December 21 in federal court alleges that negligence caused five residents at Southeastern Veterans’ Center, a state-run nursing home in Pennsylvania, to die from COVID-19. The lawsuit names the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Rohan Blackwood and Deborah Mullane as defendants.
The complaint notes that the Pennsylvania Department of Health inspected the nursing home in June 2020, and that the inspection led to multiple infractions. The DOH found that the nursing home “failed to implement the CMS and CDC recommended practices for COVID-19 and to prevent the potential for cross contamination of infection,” according to the complaint.
The complaint states the DOH found the facility failed to put procedures and policies in place to investigate and trace COVID-19 positive and suspected positive staff and residents to potentially control or mitigate the coronavirus’ spread.
The complaint states the DOH cited the facility for multiple violations, including:
- Keeping COVID-19-negative residents in units with COVID-19 positive residents
- Documenting COVID-19 testing in the wrong residents’ files
- Failing to make sure the commandant and director of nursing were in attendance for an adequate number of quarterly Quality Assurance Process Improvement Committee meetings
- Failing to implement COVID-19 tracing policies and procedures
- Failing to follow CDC, CMS and DOH guidelines in order to reduce the spread of infection
- Failing to test residents and staff
- Failing to end communal dining
- Failing to adequately test staff
- Failing to follow social distancing protocols
- Failing to use a screening questionnaire at the entrance
- Failing to fit test all staff properly for N95 masks
- Letting employees work in COVID-19 negative and positive units in the same day
The complaint states the DOH found that Blackwood and Mullane failed to make sure multi-use equipment was properly disinfected and cleaned and failed to make sure staff had access to PPE, used proper hand-hygiene and properly handled and stored linens to prevent cross-contamination of disease.
The complaint states that staff at the nursing home informed one of the plaintiffs that the facility learned that a resident tested positive for COVID-19 on March 6, 2020, yet continued to force residents to eat in the cafeteria together all throughout the month of March.
“Even residents who began showing symptoms of COVID-19 were brought into the cafeteria to eat with other residents, thus, exposing the greater group of residents,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit seeks to recover damages based on multiple counts, including:
- Violations of civil rights enforceable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 – cruel and unusual punishment
- Deprivation of civil rights protected under Federal Nursing Home Reform Act
- Negligence: vicarious liability
- Corporate negligence
- Wrongful death