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Negligence of Hospice for Exposing Workers to Coronavirus

As the COVID-19 virus has infected people around the world, workers providing hospice care to the United States’ approximately 1.5 million hospice patients have struggled to adapt to changing conditions. Workers are connecting with some hospice patients remotely, are conducting examinations from adjacent rooms, or when allowed into hospice facilities, caregivers are wearing “personal protective equipment just like other health providers.”

But were hospice care facilities too slow to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, leading to infection of patients and care providers?

A doctor of geriatric medicine who teaches at Stanford University in California told the Mercury News that “We need to be massively testing the skilled nursing facilities.” The doctor, Mehrdad Ayati, fears protective measures were enacted too late for persons in the most vulnerable positions at hospice facilities.

At one facility near San Francisco where 27 residents tested positive for COVID-19 in late March, authorities became concerned when two care workers from the same facility presented for treatment at a local hospital After tests showed the workers had contracted the virus, testing of other workers in the facility showed that 22 employees had become infected.

How Coronavirus Spreads to Workers in Hospice Care Facilities

A caregiver providing hospice care at a hospice facility or a nursing facility that provides hospice care can be exposed to COVID-19 in the following ways:

  • Droplets are dispersed in a facility when an infected resident coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces in a resident’s room, where the virus can survive for hours, even days, leading to exposure of third persons;
  • Droplets from an infected resident who has covered coughs or sneezes with one’s hands become placed on surfaces in a resident’s room or within a facility, such as doorknobs, rails, handles, and other common items, when the resident touches them, leading to exposure of third parties;
  • Droplets left by an infected resident are transferred to caregivers when the caregivers touch surfaces contacted by the infected resident;
  • Dry particles known as aerosols may transmit the virus in the air when a caregiver is in close proximity to an infected resident;
  • Direct contact with or proximity to an infected resident may increase the likelihood of virus exposure in a caregiver.

Once a caregiver is infected, the caregiver may have to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, or for a period of time after any symptoms resolve, leading to loss of pay while the worker is away from work. An infected caregiver may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, and coughing, which can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Caregivers Say They Have Not Been Adequately Protected From Virus

Even as COVID-19 has rapidly spread around the world, infecting persons in every state in the United States within a few months, the head of a union representing 150,000 registered nurses in the United States told ABC News that nurses are being forced to do their work with inadequate protections.

The lack of adequate personal protective equipment could increase the likelihood that caregivers become exposed to the COVID-19 virus, according to the union head, Bonnie Castillo. She criticized treatment facilities, saying they were not doing enough to protect workers.

Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help Medical Workers Infected With COVID-19

Treatment facilities have a duty to provide a safe working environment for workers. If a caregiver has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus as a result of the negligence of a treatment facility, the caregiver may be entitled to damages for loss of income, out-of-pocket medical costs, pain and suffering, and any permanent damage or loss of function caused by the infection.

Caregivers infected with COVID-19 may pursue claims against treatment facilities for any of the following potential breaches of the duty to exercise reasonable care:

  • Failure to test workers, residents, and patients for the virus;
  • Failure to screen workers, residents, and patients for symptoms;
  • Failure to enact reasonable social distancing measures to protect workers;
  • Failure to quarantine persons exhibiting symptoms;
  • Failure to enact disinfectant and social distancing guidelines for all persons in facilities;
  • Failure to close facilities to guests.

If a facility has failed to take reasonable steps to protect caregivers from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, a worker injured by the facility’s negligence may be entitled to compensation. The professionals at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can assist caregivers infected with the COVID-19 virus who feel their exposure resulted from the negligence of a treatment facility.

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today To Schedule A Free Consultation

The best thing a caregiver injured by exposure to the coronavirus can do is contact an experienced, local personal injury attorney. With offices in Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville, the law firm of Arnold & Smith, PLLC handles personal injury cases across the entire State of North Carolina. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to set up a free initial consultation.

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