A parked ambulance.

Tennessee nursing home in crisis amid COVID-19 outbreak

A nursing home in Gallatin, TN underwent an emergency evacuation on March 27-29 after nearly 100 residents tested positive for COVID-19. Additional testing showed that 33 staff members were also infected with the virus. All infected residents were transported to the Sumner Regional Medical Center for treatment. Infected staff members are reportedly self-isolating at home.

Although most of the diagnosed residents were asymptomatic, a recent statement from SRMC revealed that two patients have passed away from COVID-19. Others remain hospitalized and under close observation.

Officials have not yet identified the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Gallatin nursing home. Mayor Paige Brown called the crisis a “truly horrendous situation,” and reported that state health officials are currently overseeing the disinfecting of the facility while residents are temporarily housed elsewhere.

COVID-19 outbreak in Washington facility

The Gallatin nursing home outbreak followed a similar crisis in a Washington retirement center. Since February, the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington has lost a total of 26 residents, 13 of whom tested positive for coronavirus. For other deceased residents, the cause of death is not yet confirmed. Other deaths, which occurred outside Life Care Center, were later tied to the facility. Between 19-23 people have died from coronavirus infections originating from the nursing home.

In total, at least 51 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at the Life Care Center, which housed 120 residents before the outbreak. The facility still houses 49 residents, nearly half of whom tested positive for COVID-19.

In April, the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) fined the Kirkland nursing home over $600,000 for public health violations that occurred over a 13-week period. Violations included failure to supply staff with enough personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, and allowing infected staff members to continue working with residents.

These violations likely exacerbated the severity of the facility’s COVID-19 outbreak, in which 1 in 4 infected patients has died so far. The CMS warned that the facility could lose Medicare/Medicaid support if it fails to improve its resources and staff procedures.

COVID-19 risks in nursing homes

The communicability of COVID-19 makes the virus particularly dangerous in environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement centers, where residents spend their days in close proximity with others. The virus–which spreads via moisture droplets–is extremely contagious, and can live on unsanitized surfaces for hours at a time. Infected persons may be contagious within 6 feet of others. Additionally, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is highest for patients above age 65; this demographic accounts for 80% of all coronavirus deaths.

These factors mean that nursing home residents are at an especially high risk of serious or fatal cases of COVID-19. If medical personnel and staff are not careful to take all measures possible to prevent the spread of the virus, it can wreak devastation on nursing home populations. Inadequate sanitizing, failing to separate residents, or coming to work while sick may cost vulnerable patients their lives.

If your loved one contracted COVID-19 while in a nursing home or retirement care facility, call the nursing home negligence attorneys at David Randolph Smith for a free case evaluation.