Low-Rated Nursing Homes in Long Beach Have the Most COVID-19 Cases
Early in the days of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million residents of California to shelter in place. Residents of California’s nursing homes, however, were already mainly confined to their facilities. For elders in California’s worst nursing homes, this confinement became a death sentence — and it’s not entirely clear whether many of these deaths were truly necessary.
Eight nursing homes in Long Beach, in particular, have a long history of health violations that only got worse during the pandemic, with devastating consequences. For instance, Long Beach Healthcare Center was issued a rare AA-class citation when a resident was allowed to languish with extreme constipation until emergency room care was required.
As of last week, over 300 coronavirus cases have been reported in Long Beach nursing homes, and most of these cases have centered around these eight problematic elder care centers, which have received poor health inspection ratings in the past. While the long-term effects of coronavirus may ultimately be more minimal than experts predicted, the recent pandemic has unveiled the serious consequences of health violations in California’s long-term care facilities.
Our elderly nursing home population is particularly vulnerable, and a public health crisis like COVID-19 affects this group in a disproportionately vicious manner. Therefore, even small ethical violations in these facilities can snowball into a huge problem that cuts lives short unnecessarily.
Unsafe nursing homes pose continuing problems
California has more than its fair share of health violations in nursing homes. According to an advocate of elders who have been harmed in nursing homes, California is filled with “lowly-rated, poorly staffed nursing homes that routinely neglect their residents,” so it’s unsurprising that California long-term care facilities have been among the hardest-hit by the effects of coronavirus.
More than half of the nearly 100 residents in one facility in Long Beach, Broadway by the Sea, have been infected by COVID-19. So far, 11 people have died from coronavirus at this facility; and given Broadway by the Sea’s history, this chilling figure is par for the course.
In the past year alone, Broadway by the Sea has received two citations for not practicing proper infection containment measures. One citation was shockingly given for a nurse not washing her hands before administering intravenous medication, and the other was given when the facility failed to report a scabies outbreak. Furthermore, Broadway by the Sea was issued a Class A citation earlier this year when a resident died from injuries she sustained after falling out of bed.
Elders are more likely to be hurt in California nursing homes
Long Beach Healthcare Center, the facility that received an AA-class citation in 2019, has been served with six citations so far in 2020. Furthermore, this facility has already been home to six confirmed coronavirus deaths.
It’s telling that Long Beach Healthcare Center appears on a federal list of the worst nursing homes in the country. Among other things, the paperwork for this facility’s 2019 AA-class citation points out that Long Beach Healthcare Center did not report that the constipated woman had not had a bowel movement in over a week.
In the end, the resident, who was rushed to the hospital with an absurdly distended abdomen, died from the combined effects of pneumonia and a urinary tract infection. Critical errors that ultimately allow residents to die like those committed by Long Beach Healthcare Center have likely only increased as the coronavirus pandemic has taxed resources and introduced new stresses into long-term care facilities. How can we trust facilities that are clearly not valuing the lives of every resident to handle a complex and dynamic situation like COVID-19 poses?
From a quick look at the statistics provided by the California Department of Public Health, it’s clear that many elder care facilities are following proper guidelines and are either limiting or outright eliminating coronavirus cases among their residents. Nonetheless, statistics from Broadway by the Sea, Long Beach Healthcare Center, and many other California nursing homes clearly illustrate that the danger is not over for elders in the state who need long-term care.
Coronavirus is a much-needed wake up call
According to Mehrdad Ayati, an experienced geriatrician who teaches at Stanford, long-term care facilities in the United States continue to suffer from severe health risks related to overwork. Despite often being paid close to minimum wage, workers at nursing homes are expected to meet unreasonable daily goals, which decreases morale and ultimately leads to life-ending mistakes.
Ayati points out that many nursing home employees are expected to work with more than 20 residents per day, which increases infection risks. According to Ayati, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed serious risks in nursing homes, which are some of the nation’s most dangerous places when it comes to viral and bacterial infections.
While the current bout of coronavirus seems to have subsided in the United States, experts like Ayati are concerned about a potential recurrence in the fall. We’re starting to see how mandatory lockdowns and other preventive measures have failed to reduce the brunt of the pandemic when applied to the general population, and Ayati strongly suggests that states like California focus more prominently on at-risk populations, such as people living in nursing homes, instead.
Last month, the Long Beach Health Department started conducting mandatory coronavirus testing in nursing homes, which is a great step in the right direction. Unless long-term care facilities in Long Beach and other California cities start imposing stricter policies and caring for their residents better, however, nursing homes will continue to fail to meet the basic medical needs of the elders in their care.
Elders who have been harmed by poor nursing care standards can always seek justice under applicable state and federal laws. Speak to an elder abuse expert today to determine your options.