Many people, including elderly veterans, have faced fears about COVID-19 for good reason. With millions infected and 800,000 deaths recorded in the U.S. alone, it’s clear why that worry exists, especially among the older or ill adult populations. People trust their medical providers to meet their ongoing needs without putting them at any enhanced risk for the spread of coronavirus. Yet, at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, the recent COVID-19 outbreak may have more to do with staff behaviors than expected.
VA Medical Center Has Seen a Significant New Outbreak
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center is one of numerous VA facilities throughout the country that has experienced a recent COVID-19 outbreak. Reports indicate that at least 18 COVID-19 infections occurred, and one person has died. One of those infected was waiting for a lung transplant.
What’s striking and worrisome about this outbreak is that all the infections have been traced back to a single staff member. In addition, reports indicate that the person had been ill for several days while working, exposing many to the COVID-19 virus.
The facility’s chief of staff sent a memo about the event, noting that the hospital was responsible for the infections for numerous reasons. The hospital staff failed their patients by not properly wearing masks and coming into work sick. She goes on to say that they are working to resolve the issue.
Specifically, the internal memo issued by Chief of Staff Sarah Unterman states, “We have committed very real harm to a large number of patients this week. All of these patients are vaccinated, and yet when a sick staff member came to work several days in a row, they exposed many patients to COVID who were here for other reasons. We did this. And we all need to take responsibility.”
Funding and Support Is Available to Medical Centers
While there’s a staff shortage in many areas of the country, including at some VA medical centers, a reduced level of care is not something veterans should experience when seeking medical attention, whether for surgical procedures or regular check-up appointments.
The CARES Act included $19.57 billion in funding designed to help ensure that the Department has the financial support necessary to meet medical needs and keep these facilities operating at their best. That includes money for telehealth capabilities, testing, equipment, and support services. A component of those funds, or $15.85 billion, is available to directly support medical care, including providing treatment to veterans, having access to enough personal protective equipment (PPE), and paying overtime for clinical staff. The funding design intends to help support the needs of these facilities even when they are facing staffing shortages.
Additionally, there was an allocation of approximately $3.1 billion for facilities and IT support, specifically for telemedicine. The use of telemedicine may help limit veterans’ exposure to COVID-19 by avoiding the need for some to visit a medical site campus to receive medical care for minor health concerns. Instead, people can stay at home, where the risk of transmission may be lower.
The particular bill includes $590 million for vulnerable veterans. That includes supporting the needs of homeless veterans’ programs and state veterans’ homes.
These various funds aim to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the care provided by VA medical centers. That didn’t happen in this instance, allowing numerous people to be exposed to the virus, with many contracting COVID-19 due to these preventable failures.
Levin & Perconti Supports Veterans’ Legal Rights
Levin & Perconti is proud to have represented veterans for over 30 years in a variety of legal matters. We have the knowledge and experience to help extend justice and compensation to veterans after someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions cause harm. After devoting years of service to our country, veterans deserve quality medical and long-term care.
We are currently representing 27 veterans from the LaSalle Veterans Home following a COVID-19 outbreak in November of 2020 that led to the untimely deaths of nearly a quarter of the residents at the affected location. After both federal and state inspections, The Office of the Inspector General report determined several acts of negligence, such as using alcohol-free hand sanitizer, which could not prevent the spread of Covid-19, and relaxed screening protocols for staff members entering the facility. Investigators also discovered that care staff ignored social distancing guidelines and failed to wear masks.
The negligent acts at the LaSalle Veterans Home are similar to other documented outbreaks at the Quincy and Manteno VAs. These locations have earned a 1 out of 3-star rating from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid, indicating a lack of quality of care.
Getting Help for Veterans Exposed to COVID-19
If you or your loved one has suffered from COVID-19 exposure in one of the four Illinois Veterans’ Homes or any other nursing home or medical facility, it’s critical to seek help as soon as possible. Typically, authorities investigate these outbreaks, but patients’ families aren’t always informed. You should reach out for support if you suspect negligence has occurred in the following situations:
- Your loved one has contracted COVID-19 while living in a nursing home or VA medical facility.
- Your loved one is a part of an investigation into a nursing home outbreak or could have had exposure during the times these investigations happened.
- A loved one has expressed concerns about lack of care, congregating in large groups, or engaging in other behaviors that may encourage the spread of COVID-19.
- There are occurrences of other types of negligence or wrongdoing, such as lack of assistance to go to the bathroom, remaining in soiled clothing for lengthy periods, rough or aggressive handling or behaviors by staff members, or unacceptable levels of care for other medical needs.
- You suspect your loved one is suffering or died due to COVID-19, even if no one informed you about an outbreak.
When you reach out to our legal team, we will help you investigate what occurred. We can help gather information from state and federal investigations and other data that may support your legal claims.
Long-term care facilities, including veterans’ homes, may be facing staff shortages. However, there’s funding available to support the needs of those living in and working at the residential establishments, even with fewer employees. More so, improper care and exposure to COVID-19 are still less likely to happen when facility administrators and staff members follow adequate protocols and safety measures.
How Levin & Perconti Can Help You After a COVID-19 Outbreak at an Illinois Veterans’ Home
Levin & Perconti’s nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys will work with you to determine your legal options and how we can best help you hold the proper individuals accountable for your elderly family member’s harm. We’ve worked with many clients whose loved ones have experienced COVID-19 exposure due to a lack of or poorly executed nursing home safety and well-being practices and violations of medical standards of care. In addition to these COVID-19 related VA cases, we regularly represent veterans in various medical malpractice and nursing home injury matters. We want to help you, too.
To learn more about what we can do for you and your family, we encourage you to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with an Illinois veterans’ attorney who can support your legal needs. Contact Levin & Perconti now for a free case evaluation.