A couple of weeks ago, the Oregon legislature concluded a three-day special session in which a host of bills focused on coronavirus relief, police reform and several other issues. Though legislators did not pass a measure to grant legal immunity from civil lawsuits to nursing home operators during the pandemic, they did put the matter on the agenda for a coming special session.
A case against immunity
A recent opinion piece in Forbes by attorney Patricia Barnes laid out a case against granting immunity. She notes that about 20 states have already created legal shields for nursing homes, but she also poses a blunt question: “What’s the rush?”
Barnes points out that there has not yet been an investigation of how well nursing homes have performed and are performing in the pandemic, though there “is plenty of reason for concern.”
Days ago, ABC News reported that more than 36,000 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic. That means 27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the nation were residents of nursing homes.
Barnes writes that “immunity effectively eliminates civil legal redress for and on behalf of nursing home residents who died due of COVID-19 due to negligence and abuse.”
Immunity will also make it virtually impossible for family members to find out what happened to their deceased loved one during the pandemic.
Accountability for abuse and neglect
Worst of all, society will have no way to hold nursing home owners accountable for abuse and neglect of patients.
While many would agree that granting immunity to doctors and nurses makes sense, some states have granted broad immunity shielding administrators, executives, supervisors, board members and trustees, among others.
Oregon media outlets have reported that there is bipartisan support in the legislature for nursing home immunity here, but it is not yet clear who would be shielded.