A proposed class action claims the operators of Queens Adult Care Center (QACC) have grossly failed to provide even “the most basic level of care” to safeguard the health of residents as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread.
The 59-page lawsuit alleges that defendants Hofgur, LLC and Gefen Senior Care Group have implemented “no or few preventative measures” to curtail the spread of the virus since residents of the Elmhurst, New York assisted living facility began displaying COVID-19 symptoms in mid- to late March. Those who experience symptoms are often “left to languish in their rooms” without access to proper medical care or assistance with meals and medications, the suit alleges. All the while, residents’ families and the public have been kept in the dark with regard to the conditions at the facility and the rate of infection, the lawsuit claims.
The case stresses that those who reside at Queens Adult Care Center, which houses elderly, sick or mentally ill New Yorkers, are “particularly vulnerable” to becoming seriously sickened by the novel coronavirus. Not only do many of the adult home’s more than 350 residents have underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or COPD, but roughly two-thirds of the population suffer from mental disabilities that can leave them “with little understanding” of the risks of contracting the highly contagious disease, per the suit. In this context, an outbreak of COVID-19 in an assisted living facility such as QACC is “a disaster” that requires “urgent and decisive action” to protect residents, staff and the surrounding community, the case says.
Despite being aware of the dangers of an outbreak and their responsibility to protect residents’ health, the defendants have failed to take proper preventative measures to keep the facility’s occupants safe, the case argues. According to the complaint, QACC residents are permitted to roam the entire three-floor facility, gather in groups for meals and social interaction, and even walk through the surrounding Elmhurst community, regardless of whether they have been exposed to COVID-19. The case claims the defendants have wholly failed to implement safe social distancing measures and neglected to screen both staff and residents for symptoms. From the lawsuit:
“QACC has failed to screen all staff at the beginning of their shift for fever and respiratory symptoms by actively taking their temperature and documenting absence of shortness of breath, new or change in cough, and sore throat. In addition, despite requests of family members of residents, QACC’s residents are not being screened or tested, even those who have had direct and close contact with other residents diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Residents themselves, even if they are aware of the need for social distancing, are unable to practice such given they typically share a bedroom with a roommate and use a bathroom shared by three others, the case alleges. Further, the suit says residents and staff are not provided with protective gear or sanitizing materials that would allow them to observe the increased hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More from the complaint:
“Residents are packed in a combustible mix of sick and elderly patients alongside those with mental illness, often with little understanding of the risks and danger of this highly contagious disease. For reasons beyond their control, people in assisted living facilities are unable to voluntarily practice social distancing, control their exposure to large groups, practice increased hygiene, wear protective clothing, obtain specific products for sanitation, cleaning, or laundry, avoid high-touch surfaces, or sanitize their own environment.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that when QACC residents exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, they are provided with no access to medical care or assistance with meals and medications. According to the suit, staff members are often “unable or unwilling” to provide care and treatment to those who are visibly ill, choosing instead to leave meals outside residents’ doors and force them to rely on family or other residents for assistance. In one case, the lawsuit says, a resident died in his bed and was left there for “almost a day” while his roommate remained in the room.
The lawsuit claims the defendants have no protocols in place to handle a COVID-19 outbreak, including plans to quarantine residents who have been exposed to the disease and send those in need of treatment to hospitals.
Further still, the case claims the defendants have “deliberately refused” to inform family members and the public of QACC’s policies, practices, and procedures for responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and have attempted to keep residents’ loved ones in the dark concerning the “medical catastrophe” unfolding within the facility. According to the suit, QACC has provided misleading and false information regarding the number of residents who have fallen ill or died as a result of COVID-19 while consistently maintaining that the facility is “safe.”
“Although QACC and its staff have not disclosed the true calamity of what is going on inside the facility, residents report that at least 14 residents of QACC have died so far from COVID-19, and many more have and continue to suffer from COVID-19 with little to no assistance from the facility or its staff,” the complaint laments.
Alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring the defendants to “immediately comply” with guidelines specifying how long-term care facilities are to control and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the appointment of a committee to oversee “ameliorative action” for QACC’s residents.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.