Nursing Home COVID-19 Procedures Put Patients At Risk

Nursing Home Procedures Put Patients at Risk

Elderly residents in long-term care facilities face the greatest danger with the COVID-19 pandemic. Viruses have decimated care centers for years due to poor infection control and lax oversight. These persistent problems were compounded by the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic leading to about one-third of U.S. COVID-19 deaths having occurred in nursing homes. Individuals living in long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes of the COVID-19 virus by living in shared living quarters and communal spaces which make social distancing or isolation difficult. 

Many of the deaths that have occurred at long-term care facilities could have been prevented if state regulators, the federal government, and nursing home operators had responded to early warnings and taken basic safety steps to improve safety procedures as the outbreak began. 

Professor of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School, David Grabowski told the Star Tribune, “The warning bells were loud and clear. From the beginning, there was evidence that once COVID-19 really gets going in these huge care facilities, there’s just no way to protect residents.” 

In February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 22% of COVID-19 patients in China over the age of 80 were dying of COVID-19. That is nearly 6 times the death rate for the population as a whole. 

As Europe imposed strict lockdown measures in spring 2020, the COVID-19 virus soon infiltrated a large nursing home in suburban Seattle. This set off a deadly chain reaction at the Life Care Center in late February that eventually took 46 lives and infected at least 60% of its patients. The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued changing guidelines on testing and when to limit visitors to nursing homes; however, states were left on their own to implement those recommendations. The Department of Health and the State Emergency Operations Center informed providers in April 2020 that its emergency stockpile of N95 masks was reserved for “hospital settings only” and that they should wait until their supplies had decreased to “zero to three days” before requesting more gear. 

Stories of residents dying alone in their rooms from COVID-19 have horrified senior citizens and shaken the public’s belief in the government’s ability to defend them from the pandemic. The long-term care facility residents leave behind family such as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are angry and guilty after trusting the long-term care facilities to care for their aging loved ones. 

Prior to the pandemic, 8 in 10 nursing homes were cited for infection control problems. In May 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that infection control deficiencies in nursing homes were “widespread” and “persistent.” It determined that 82% of nursing homes surveyed between 2013 and 2017 were cited for infection prevention and control deficiencies in one or more years. Around half of those nursing homes were cited for the same deficiencies in multiple inspections over a 5-year period.

One of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation occurred at North Ridge Health and Rehab in New Hope, Minnesota which had been cited for multiple safety violations prior to the pandemic. 

‘Death Ridge’ Long-Term Care Facility In Minnesota

The North Ridge Health and Rehab long-term care facility in New Hope, Minnesota has become known as “Death Ridge” due to the horrifyingly high COVID-19 infection rate and the staggering numbers of deaths at the facility–likely due to the facility’s inadequate safety procedures. 

Within weeks, the facility became the site of the deadliest outbreak in Minnesota and one of the largest nursing home outbreaks in the nation. As a result, North Ridge employees began to refer to the three-building brick complex with 320 beds as “Death Ridge.” A Minnesota Health Department investigator noted that the new virus cases “have blossomed” at North Ridge and the facility “seemed very overwhelmed” by regulatory oversight calls from the agency. 

At North Ridge, about one third of the rooms are double occupancy rooms. This means that a mesh curtain serves as the only barrier between residents. The shared rooms allow people to sleep close enough for each person to hear. In some of the facility’s oldest rooms, four residents share a single toilet and gathering area. 

North Ridge staff members move throughout the facility providing intimate care that includes bathing, dressing, and toileting–all of which require constant physical contact. Doorways are kept open to bustling hallways which allow understaffed nurses to move about at all hours. The facility was so understaffed that it would take up to three hours for workers to respond to residents’ requests for assistance. 

By April 20, North Ridge was pleading for assistance from the Department of Health for help. The facility said that it would “not make it the next 72 hours” without more staff. Staff raised alarms about being asked to work while sick and not having enough protective gear. They also complained of being asked to work in both the COVID and the non-COVID areas of the facility. 

North Ridge also had a financial incentive to accept patients infected with COVID-19. New patient arrivals filled the financial void left by patients who died from the virus in addition to the beds left empty because fewer people are coming to nursing homes to recover after surgeries. Nursing homes were paid up to $800 a day from Medicare for new patients who required short-term stays. North Ridge continued to accept dozens of COVID-19 cases through the summer and fall of 2020 from hospitals and other long-term care facilities–even while the facility itself reported being severely understaffed and lacking personal protective gear. 

By late June 2020, 73 residents had died from COVID-19 and 350 residents and staff had already tested positive for the virus.

Numerous Prior Safety Violations at North Ridge Before the Pandemic

There had been signs in the months and years prior to the pandemic that the North Ridge facility might be unprepared for the highly contagious and lethal virus. Dozens of government inspection reports dating back to 2017 show that the facility repeatedly puts its residents in harm’s way in addition to the facility being on the federal government’s watch list of 450 troubled nursing homes for three years. Since 2017, the nursing home has accumulated more than 80 violations of federal health and safety standards. 

For instance, residents’ pressure sores were left to fester untreated until they bled. Emergency call buttons were poorly staffed, so residents had to wait for hours or call 911 when they needed help. Bedridden patients went weeks without being bathed due to the lack of staff. Rooms frequently smelled of urine, mildew, and outdated food.

COVID-19 in Minnesota Long-Term Care Facilities

Long before the pandemic, nursing homes in Minnesota had been cited for safety violations. That lack of effective procedures was exacerbated by the pandemic. Minnesota’s StarTribune conducted an analysis of federal health records and determined that nearly 70% of Minnesota’s nearly 370 nursing homes have been cited for lapses in infection control over the past 4 years. 

Across the state of Minnesota, reported resident and worker infection rates in senior care facilities increased from an average of 20 per day at the beginning of April 2020 to more than 130 per day by the end of the month. In total, nearly 70% of Minnesota’s COVID deaths have occurred in long-term care settings.  That is one of the highest such ratios in the entire country. 

GoldenbergLaw Can Help

If you or a loved one was infected with COVID-19 after staying in a nursing home, contact the Personal Injury Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw for a free consultation. Contact us today and leave the sleepless nights to us.

Have You Undergone a Medical Procedure That Used a Penumbra Jet 7 Xtra Flex Catheter?

On December 15, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Penumbra, Inc. had recalled all Penumbra Reperfusion Catheters with Xtra Flex Technology (Jet 7 Xtra Flex). The recall is due to the heightened risk of injury and death during procedures to remove blood clots in stroke patients.

The Jet 7 Xtra Flex catheter has been used in thousands of procedures since it was introduced to the market in 2019. Many patients may soon be notified by their care provider that this recalled device was used in a recent procedure.

It can be an immensely scary and confusing experience to learn that a recalled and potentially dangerous device was used in your surgery. The Jet 7 Recall Lawyers at GoldenbergLaw are here to help you hold this company responsible. If you qualify, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. This is not a class action. If you qualify, you will have your own individual claim.

Why Did Penumbra Recall the Penumbra Jet 7 Xtra Flex Catheter?

Penumbra’s recall urged all medical providers to stop using the device and for all facilities to remove the devices from their inventories due to increased risk of serious injury and even death.

The recall came after the FDA received over 200 medical device reports associated with the Jet 7 Xtra Flex catheter. These reports included cases where patients died or suffered serious injuries after the device malfunctioned.

The device failures included “ballooning, expansion, rupture, breakage, or complete separation, and exposure of internal support coils near the distal tip region of the Jet 7 Xtra Flex catheter.”

If the distal tip expands within a cerebral artery, the tip can become multiple times the size of the artery which can result in it being damaged or rupturing. If the distal tip breaks off during the procedure, it can cause serious injuries requiring further interventions to recover and remove the separated part of the catheter.

What Injuries are Linked to the Penumbra Jet 7?

Reports demonstrated that when the Penumbra Jet 7 Xtra Flex catheter was used to remove blood clots from patients’ brains the distal tip would expand or fracture spontaneously. Surgeons observed that this resulted in the catheter expanding within a cerebral (brain) artery. This expansion caused the blood vessel to rupture which can cause the following complications:

  • Vessel damage
  • Hemorrhages
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Cerebral infarction
  • Additional surgery
  • Death

Do I Have a Penumbra Jet 7 Lawsuit?

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury during a medical procedure (thrombectomy) in which the Penumbra Jet 7 Xtra Flex Catheter was used, you may be eligible for a lawsuit against the manufacturer. The Penumbra Jet 7 Recall Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw have over thirty 34 of experience litigating cases against device manufacturers and helping our clients successfully receive the justice they deserve. We have the expertise, compassion, and knowledge to help you with your Penumbra Jet 7 lawsuit wherever you reside in the United States. Contact us today for a free consultation and leave the sleepless nights to us.

Bacteria Discovered in Kimberly-Clark’s Wipes

Bacteria in Cottonelle Wipes

In October 2020, Kimberly-Clark announced the recall of Cottonelle Flushable Wipes and GentlePlus Flushable Wipes due to the presence of pluralibacter gergoviae bacteria, which can lead to infection. The wipes have been in high demand due to the pandemic.

Pluralibacter gergoviae bacteria is often found in soil, water, and sewage. It also appears in cosmetics, shampoo, and baby wipes.

The Recall

In October 2020, Kimberly-Clark voluntarily recalled select packages of Cottonelle Flushable Wipes and GentlePlus Flushable Wipes sold in the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean due to the bacterial contamination. The recall was limited to the wipes that were manufactured between February 7 and September 14, 2020.

The recall warned that the wipes may contain pluralibacter gergoviae, which is linked to serious infections in healthy individuals. Additionally, the recall mentioned that individuals with weak immune systems are at a heightened infection risk.

Lawsuits

In November 2020, Kimberly-Clark Corporation was hit with a proposed class action lawsuit in New York federal court with product liability claims in addition to alleging violations of New York’s false advertising laws. Plaintiff Dawn Rothfeld claimed in the lawsuit that she used Cottonelle Wipes for personal hygiene and that they were contaminated with pluralibacter gergoviae bacteria. The lawsuit stated that the bacteria caused a urinary tract infection, painful urination, and other symptoms. The plaintiff was treated with antibiotics but she also had to have ultrasounds of her abdomen and bladder. Even after all of these measures, Rothfeld still experiences weakness, nausea, and vomiting after using the Cottonelle Wipes between February and October 2020.

The lawsuit noted that “thousands of women have reported urinary-tract infections after using the wipes, which required doctor and hospitals visits, and Cottonelle’s social media accounts have been flooded with accounts of injuries relating to the products—many of which have gone undiagnosed due to the rare strain of bacteria at issue.”

The lawsuit claimed that the contamination occurred in February 2020 in certain lots of the wipes. It also alleges that Kimberly-Clark did not have safeguards to detect bacterial contamination. This is despite the wipes allegedly having dark brown spots on the surface and the packaging smelling like mildew—both being signs of bacterial contamination.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

The Minnesota Product Recall Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw have over thirty years of experience helping clients receive the justice they deserve by providing Gold standard advocacy. Leave the sleepless nights to us by contacting us today!