August 14, 2020
Our partners in PCH mutual recently hosted a webinar alongside Donna Fudge, a newly appointed member to the National COVID-19 Defense Counsel, where she discussed the impact and challenges that long-term care facilities have faced during the COVID-19 Crisis. As part of this discussion, Donna discussed tips and recommendations for long-term care facilities to help them manage, adapt, and prevent a wide range of risks that have come about as a result of the COVID-19 Crisis.
Here is a recap of the webinar discussion:
Although some states have passed various immunity laws and the federal government is considering a similar measure, even if those immunities apply, they likely will not apply to conduct that is considered “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct.” So long term care facilities must keep a record to demonstrate their efforts during the pandemic to avoid such allegations. Many of the allegations we have seen include:
- Failure to use proper infection control measures (infection protocol, PPE, etc.)
- Negligently allowing symptomatic caregivers to treat residents and/or without wearing proper PPE
- Violation of federal health guidelines
- Failure to have staff meetings to train/update staff
- Allowing COVID+ residents to share a room
- Allowing residents to mingle with each other
- Requiring staff to maintain unmanageable workloads
- The facility is an outlier due to the high number of COVID cases
- Reports on employment websites like Indeed.com that facility is understaffed or an unfavorable/unsafe workplace
Tips for Avoiding or Defending Claims Against Your Facility
- Be very careful about (try to avoid) taking and posting photos on social media that may depict improper PPE usage, or selfies that depict parties not social distancing (even 6 feet now is not considered enough in the ever-evolving studies and guidelines related to COVID-19). Staff should not post work-related photos on social media.
- When reviewing all marketing materials, including website and social media, view them through the lens of the post-pandemic world (i.e. no big groups, parties, touching, etc.).
- Keep residents at a proper social distance.
- Train all to properly don and doff PPE
- Print CDC Signage, document usage
- Train and retrain staff (i.e. on handwashing, PPE, cough etiquette, etc.)
- Educate staff specifically about silent spread
- Limit “chit chat” and speak softly to reduce the spread
Create an Evidence Box – Document & Save
- Scan and store everything digitally if possible
- If you have a timeline of what you did and when specific to the pandemic, preserve it
- Document & Save your actions, i.e. training, preparation, protocols, infection prevention, anything PPE related, staffing, signage, communications, etc.
- Document & Save visitor protocols, logs, screening logs, etc. and how it evolved with the guidance
- Save video surveillance
- Document & Save employee screening and staff assignments
- Document & Save recommendations to staff on how to conduct themselves in off-duty hours to reduce threat of infection
- Document & Save all relevant communications, email and text messages, re: resident health, family communication, visitors, vendors, staffing, maintenance efforts, etc.
- Save a copy of communications with family in the resident’s record/chart
- Save a copy of receipts and orders for supplies (i.e. PPE, equipment)
- Document & Save all efforts related to testing, securing testing, etc.
- Save all resident assessments for COVID symptoms
- Save all COVID test results for staff and residents; put duplicates in their specific files
- Document & Save anything else you believe demonstrates your vigilance and best practices during the pandemic
- Make it a point to make your staff feel appreciated
- Encourage even short breaks, self-care and quiet moments to themselves
We can’t thank Donna enough for the time she took to spearhead this discussion and offer valuable tips for our long-term care facilities. It is our hope that long-term care facilities everywhere are taking caution where necessary and taking the initiative to prioritize the health and safety of their staff and residents. Through best practices, careful consideration, and putting safety first we will power through adversity be stronger and more prepared than ever when we are past this point in time.