May 21, 2020

States Increase Scrutiny of Assisted Living Facilities in Response to COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly everyone in one way or another, the virus has had its deadliest impact on nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Nearly one in every ten of these facilities nationwide has reported at least one case of the virus. In Pennsylvania, outbreaks in such facilities account for nearly seventy percent of the total number of COVID-related deaths in the Commonwealth. Similarly, in Ohio, almost half of all COVID-19 deaths trace back to long-term care facilities. In response to the pandemic, law enforcement authorities in Pennsylvania and Ohio are ramping up efforts to investigate and prosecute instances of criminal negligence by personal care facilities.

Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office has established a Care-Dependent Neglect Team that is already actively investigating allegations of criminal neglect related to COVID-19 in multiple nursing homes across the state. In announcing this new initiative, Shapiro solicited the public’s assistance in reporting neglect at care facilities and touted the establishment of a new public email address for complaints.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has likewise initiated enforcement efforts against certain facilities suspected of wrongdoing related to COVID-19. Earlier this month, a search warrant was executed at the Bickford of Worthington Assisted Living and Memory Care Center in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus, in connection with a series of patient deaths and allegations of insufficient safety measures taken by staff members.

As states gradually reopen, enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 will only continue to increase, including with respect to senior living, long-term care and other assisted living facilities. As a result, now is the time to make sure that entities operating in the health care industry are taking action to ensure that all appropriate safeguards are in place. The attorneys of Flannery Georgalis, LLC have significant experience in counseling healthcare providers of all sorts and, where necessary, representing individuals and entities under investigation by federal, state, or local authorities.