Illinois Nursing Home Employee Strike: What Can Families Do?

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, then you undoubtedly want to ensure that they always receive appropriate care. However, in recent months, they coronavirus pandemic has likely severely affected your ability to ensure your loved one is safe. This pandemic is particularly devastating for nursing home residents, and recent events in Illinois could have potentially affected nursing home care. Here, we want to discuss how COVID-19 has affected Illinois nursing homes, the potential nursing home strike in the state, and what family members can do to ensure their loved ones are safe.

How is COVID-19 affecting nursing homes in Illinois?

From the beginning of this global health crisis, it became apparent that COVID-19 was particularly detrimental to those aged 65 and older as well as those with certain pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, obesity, and a weakened immune system. This has, unfortunately, led to devastating results for nursing home residents in many areas of the country.

New data from the Illinois Department of Public Health shows that COVID-19 cases grew exponentially recently, and cases are now in more counties and facilities across the state.

According to data recently released by the department, there was a 67% jump in the number of affected nursing homes across the state over the period of a few days. Public health authorities largely attribute the increase to there being more tests available.

Dr. Susan Bleasdale, Chief Quality Officer and Infectious Disease Specialist for UI Health said that “The older population are at the higher risk of dying and having sever complications from COVID. So it’s not that it’s related to the quality of the nursing facility, it’s just related to being in an extended care facility.”

What are the strikes about?

On May 8, 2020, thousands of frontline nursing home workers were set to start a historic strike across the state of Illinois. Workers were protesting because they felt that their health and the health of nursing home residents or at risk due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 really has put the spotlight on nursing home workers as we know now it’s a major source of spread of the virus our members were angry scared anxious pretty anxious and so we’ve just been trying to tell their stories and share what they’ve been going through every day,” said Greg Kelley, SEIU president.

A last-minute agreement affects more than 10,000 members of SEIU Healthcare who work in more than 100 nursing homes across the state. The workers were able to gain a higher baseline wage ($15 per hour), hazard pay for workers during the coronavirus pandemic, and fully paid sick days for COVID-19 testing, illness, or quarantine. The agreement also ensures that workers will not be required to work without adequate personal protective equipment.

How could this affect your loved one?

It is important to point out that state-licensed nursing homes, and any other medical facility In Illinois, do face liability for deaths that occur to those under their care. It is not uncommon for facilities to be held liable for substandard care through medical malpractice lawsuits, personal injury claims, or wrongful death lawsuits.

However, Governor Pritzker granted a limited form of immunity to nursing homes and other public health agencies for injuries or deaths that occur during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Under the order, nursing homes will only be held liable for COVID-19 deaths if they have shown gross negligence or willful misconduct in their duties. This is going to be a higher standard than the typical negligence standard nursing homes are held to.

How can you check on your loved one?

Now, more than ever, it is vital that you remain in contact and keep an open flow of communication between yourself in nursing home staff at the facility where your loved one resides. Unfortunately, friends and family are unable to visit nursing homes right now, a necessary precaution in place to ensure the safety of nursing home residents and staff.

Understandably, nursing home staff are incredibly busy. For the most part, the men and women who work in nursing homes are doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. But it is still important for them to explain to you the measures they are taking to keep your loved one safe.

If your loved one is able to talk on the phone, try to call them as often as possible to check on their condition. Ask them about the care they are receiving, including the demeanor of the nursing home staff. If your loved one has a device capable of doing so, consider video chatting with them so you can get a good idea of how they look. Nobody knows your loved one better than you, and you may be able to see if there is anything wrong.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, we need to remember that there are other forms of nursing home abuse and neglect that will not simply go away just because there is a health crisis. This includes:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • neglect of basic needs
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • financial abuse

Will you need an attorney to help?

If your loved one is in a nursing home and you suspect they are receiving substandard care or facing abuse or neglect, seek legal assistance soon as possible. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, our Chicago nursing home lawyers have vast experience handling these types of cases and are ready to get to work on your behalf. We know that they COVID-19 pandemic has altered the lives of everybody in nursing homes and caused fear for loved ones. Nursing home facilities must still continue providing quality care for residents. We will work with state and local health authorities to ensure that your loved one is okay and to fully evaluate the situation. When you need help, please call our Chicago office at (312) 372-8822, or you can call our toll free number at (800)-985-1819.