As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Florida’s nursing homes continues to steadily increase, the state launched new testing mandates that require virus testing for every staff member at each long-term care facility. Any facility that fails to follow the mandated testing rule could face fines or even have their license suspended.
Also, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state would require nursing homes to transfer residents with coronavirus if the facilities cannot properly isolate or treat them.
The latest numbers released by the state’s Department of Health revealed that 745 nursing home residents and employees have died from coronavirus. Thus, COVID-19 fatalities at long-term care facilities account for nearly 42% of the state’s total number of deaths from the virus.
Who Will Be Transferred from Nursing Homes Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak?
So far, it is not clear how many nursing home residents might be transferred under the policy. It is also unclear where the transferred residents would go, but some suggest that residents with COVID-19 could be relocated to other facilities.
When making his announcement, DeSantis warned about the risks that the coronavirus disease posed to older adults and said that many nursing homes in Florida are not able to isolate sick residents properly.
DeSantis said that “many” long-term care facilities do not have negative pressure rooms where they can care for residents who were infected with COVID-19. Since the lack of “isolation” rooms makes it more difficult to keep the virus from spreading, DeSantis said that coronavirus patients need to be transferred “to a safe environment” if a facility does not have isolation. Failing to isolate a COVID-19 patient may constitute nursing home neglect.
Nursing homes that do not have adequate isolation and need to transfer COVID-19 residents under the new policy should contact the health department in their county. Also, under the policy, the facility that needs to transfer a coronavirus patient must notify transportation providers and the receiving facility of the patient’s confirmed or suspected diagnosis.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration sent an email to all nursing homes across the state, informing them of the new policy. Previously, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance for nursing homes to protect residents from the virus.
Which Nursing Homes Are Impacted by the Transfer Policy?
Under the “transfer” policy, nursing homes must have units or sections that are “entirely separate and distinct” from residents who do not have coronavirus. If they do not have such units or sections to isolate COVID-19 infected residents, they are required to transfer them to a facility that has isolation rooms.
However, long-term care facilities that have separate wings or separate entrances may be able to meet the requirement to continue caring for coronavirus patients. The governor also announced an emergency rule that would require Florida’s hospitals to test all nursing home residents for coronavirus before transferring them back into long-term care facilities.
The requirement for discharging a resident to a nursing home is a negative test “regardless of symptoms” and “regardless of whether they even went to the hospital for COVID-19” or an unrelated condition, DeSantis said. Residents who test positive must remain in the hospital until they have two negative tests in a row.
Contact our Lakeland nursing home neglect attorney at The Turnbull Firm to evaluate your legal options if your parent or grandparent, who is a nursing home resident, contracted the virus. Call at 407-612-6464 or 863-324-3500.