By: Amina A. Young, Attorney

On Friday, April 10, 2020, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Commissioner Kristina Box confirmed that twenty-four residents at Bethany Pointe Health Campus in Anderson, Indiana had passed away.  Sixteen of the residents who died had tested positive for COVID-19.  The other eight showed similar symptoms.  Bethany Pointe, owned by Trilogy Health Services, LLC, is one of many nursing homes across the country facing coronavirus outbreaks.

Health care experts and officials have long stated that the elderly are likely one of the most vulnerable populations to the coronavirus due to compromised immune systems and/or underlying conditions.

On March 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to take steps to assess and improve their preparedness for responding to COVID-19.  The CDC noted nursing homes are among the highest at risk of being affected by COVID-19 because of their “congregate nature and the residents served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions).”  In its guidance, the CDC recommended rapid implementation of active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms, restricting all visitation except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life situations, and implementing sick leave policies and other occupational health considerations.

The CDC also released a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Preparedness Checklist for Nursing Homes and other Long-Term Care Settings, which identifies key areas that long-term care facilities should consider in their COVID-19 planning.  The CDC’s checklist includes a comprehensive communication plan for facilities to ensure that they are communicating with staff, residents, and their families regarding the status and impact of COVID-19 in the facility.

On its website, Trilogy Health Services declares, in responding to the COVID-19 virus, it is “following guidance from the CDC, CMS, and state officials” and is “taking extra precautions over the coming weeks and months to ensure that [its] campuses remain guarded against the spread of viral infections.”

However, a chief complaint of Bethany Pointe residents’ families is that they aren’t being kept informed on the status of the facility’s overall impact from COVID-19, or with regard to their loved one in particular.  Many families of Bethany Pointe residents state they were not even so much as notified when the first known cases were confirmed in the nursing home, and before they knew it or had a chance to respond to the situation, their loved one was showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Residents in nursing homes are members of our community and should be given the same respect and access to resources that the rest of the community has access to during a crisis.  Families of nursing home residents should be kept timely informed on the overall status of the facility’s impact to COVID-19, and on their loved one’s health.

If your loved one is residing in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and you are concerned about the facility’s handling of its response to COVID-19, one action you can take is to file a complaint or report an incident to the ISDH.  Complaint forms can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website.

COVID-19 presents unchartered territory.  This article is not legal advice.  To discuss the specific facts of your situation, contact us.