The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that the sudden halt on inspections of the state’s long-term care facilities has left already at-risk residents even more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
Further, the lawsuit alleges a number of those residing in DOH-run long-term care facilities have been subject to “an experimental drug study” purportedly in search of a way to prevent COVID-19 infection. According to the complaint, the defendant “had knowledge” that at least one long-term care facility was “experimenting on its residents with unproven, unauthorized medication” and took no action to prevent such.
The 19-page suit says the Pennsylvania DOH is tasked with ensuring the safety of those residing in state-run long-term care facilities. According to the lawsuit, the DOH has shirked its responsibility to maintain proper operation of the facilities by halting inspections, which has left residents, who the plaintiff describes as “the most medically fragile and high-risk members of our society,” at a heightened risk of contracting the easily transmissible novel coronavirus.
The complaint also blames the Pennsylvania DOH’s alleged failure to conduct inspections for "the apparent biomedical experimentation on residents" performed "under the guise of clinical trials.” Such would not have occurred had the state continued to conduct inspections as usual, the case asserts.
The plaintiff, who filed the case on behalf of her father, a resident of Beaver’s Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, claims she received a call from a nurse at the facility who convinced her to sign a consent form. The consent form was for an apparent study to find out whether a combination of hydroxychloroquine and zinc would prevent COVID-19 infection, the case says.
“By severely limiting the number of facility inspections the PA DOH has caused a direct, present, and credible threat to the health and wellbeing of the [long term care facilities] residents; and has caused death and injury,” the suit alleges.
Those residing in DOH-run long-term care facilities cannot adequately distance themselves from others, the case says. Moreover, staff are not equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) sufficient to prevent infection and cross-contamination, the lawsuit adds. Further still, the defendant’s long-term care facilities lack the amount of testing necessary to identify staff and residents who may have contracted COVID-19 and can transmit the virus to others, according to the suit.
Among the relief sought through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, on behalf of those with disabilities residing in DOH-run long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania, ask the court to:
Enforce infection control and other regulations in every long-term care facility in the state to include testing, quarantine and “any other necessary public health benefit” available to the public;
Prevent class members from being experimented on without consent;
Inspect Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities to determine whether COVID-19 cases exist within the facilities;
Take appropriate action in segregating COVID-19-positive individuals while providing residents with appropriate protective equipment; and
Staff long-term care facilities sufficiently to “fully undertake” the responsibility owed to residents in protecting and safeguarding their well-being.
“The decision to stop inspections of [long-term care facilities] was made arbitrarily and without consideration for the health, safety, and welfare of the residents,” the lawsuit charges.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.