Nursing Home Critics Say COVID-19 Immunity Laws Are Just A Free Pass For Neglect

Lisa Howze, Gia Howze, and Palestine Howze. Palestine died last year and now, her family is suing Treyburn Rehabilitation Center where she lived. Lisa Howze

NPR: Palestine Howze died April 14, 2020 in a North Carolina nursing home.

She had developed a pressure ulcer — or bed sore as they’re commonly known. It flared up in December 2018 and just grew worse, says her daughter, Lisa Howze. Infection set in.

“We begged them to take her to the emergency room, but they assured us that they could handle it,” Howze says.

Howze and her three sisters contend the nursing home could not. In their experience, Treyburn Rehabilitation Center in Durham didn’t seem to be able to handle much. On a scale of one to five stars, the federal government gives Treyburn just one. It also gets below average ratings on the ratio of nurses to residents. The government has fined Treyburn almost $190,000 in the past three years.

Lisa Howze and her sisters have filed a lawsuit against Treyburn Rehabilitation Center. But it’s unclear whether it can proceed.

Like nearly 30 other states, North Carolina granted legal immunity to nursing homes to shield them from COVID-19 lawsuits. Nursing homes argued they needed protection as the coronavirus raged through their facilities and the recommended safety guidance from the CDC fluctuated.

But that immunity raises questions for families like the Howzes, who contend that because their mother’s death had nothing to do with coronavirus, they should be able to legally hold Treyburn Rehabilitation Center accountable.

“Palestine Howze did not have to die in that way or at that time,” says Elizabeth Todd, the family’s attorney. Their lawsuit is believed to be the first of its kind to challenge nursing home immunity.  read more…

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