How Nursing Homes Hide Superbug Outbreaks

Hospitals, nursing homes, and day cares are often places where “bugs” get passed around. However, some bugs are so-called “superbugs” and hospitals and nursing homes can get around reporting them.

The outbreak began in January of 2014. This is when a resident of Casa Maria nursing home in Roswell, New Mexico, was diagnosed with Clostridium difficile, a “superbug” that is highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Six more residents had contracted the condition by the end of February. They suffered from fever, abdominal cramping, and violent diarrhea.

New Mexico regulations require that facilities must report a suspected outbreak of the infection within 24 hours.

Casa Maria staff did not report to the Health Department until March 4, 2014. Even then, they denied to the agency that they were dealing with an outbreak. By then, 9 residents were infected.

The outbreak was over by June. Fifteen residents had been infected. More than half – a total of eight residents – died.

The handling of the outbreak led to a Reuters investigation into the handling of controlling the spread of “superbug” infections. In their examination, they found that the system protects facilities where superbugs thrive. At the same time, they leave patients, their families, and the overall public ignorant of the threat of these superbugs.

While most states require that superbug outbreaks be reported, they remain vague on defining the term “outbreak” and leave it to individual facilities to make the determination.

Even when a state does get involved, punishment is very rare. At least 36 states can fine facilities up to $1,000 and include jail time for failure to report an outbreak. Yet not once has any of those 36 states imposed a fine in the past five years.

Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lacks the regulatory power to track superbug deaths. The agency also lacks the authority to enforce outbreak reporting. Instead, it only sometimes assists states with outbreak investigations.

Patients in these kinds of facilities are often chronically ill with weakened immune systems, including elderly patients. They are prime targets for superbug outbreaks.

For more information on care facilities and superbug outbreaks, go here.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect while staying in a nursing facility, you may be entitled to compensation. Let the law offices of Schenk Law fight for you. Call us today.