Nursing home residents in Pittsburgh and across the country are vulnerable to their environment. Substandard facilities, resources or care can leave the elderly exposed to neglect or abuse. Nursing home negligence is a complex issue that calls for coordinated action from law enforcement, regulatory agencies and the public.
Health officials in Allegheny County have already begun to address one pressing health concern for the upcoming fall and winter. Nationwide, health care workers routinely fail to get the recommended flu vaccines. In fact, last year, more than one-third did not receive flu shots.
Yearly vaccinations are necessary to ensure that workers receive the most current version of the vaccine, which is adjusted yearly to best protect against current viruses. When workers are not uniformly vaccinated, residents' care may be compromised. Residents of hospitals, nursing homes and elder care facilities may contract the flu themselves or suffer from inconsistent care when regular care providers are sick. Officials are promoting vaccinations for all local health workers.
When a resident suffers health risks, such as in the case of workers failing to get flu vaccinations, residents and their families have a few options. Nursing homes are generally obligated by contract to provide for the basic needs of residents. A home may be held liable for negligence if it breaches this duty of care. For instance, if an elderly resident contracts the flu, their family may question whether the illness could have been prevented. In these kinds of cases, nursing homes sometimes claim that pre-existing medical conditions caused the medical issue. As a result, medical experts may be needed to determine the actual cause of the health problem and the proper care for a resident exposed to a virus like the flu.
It can take a coordinated effort to ensure the elderly are protected from sicknesses like the flu. In addition to bringing a civil claim in these cases, families may also consider contacting adult protective services to report a negligent nursing home. Fortunately for Pittsburgh area residents, local health officials are taking the first step and thinking ahead to protect our elderly citizens by promoting healthier nursing home environments.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Big push to vaccinate health care workers," Jack Kelly, Sept. 3, 2012