Are nursing homes responsible for COVID-19 deaths?

Apr 4, 2020 6:05 PM ET

State licensure.

All nursing homes in Arizona are licensed by the state through the Bureau of Long-Term Care Licensing in the Division of Public Health Services, under the Arizona Department of Health Services, except for tribal run facilities. Under Arizona law there are certain requirements that facilities must follow so they can continue to operate and receive funds from federal and state entities that cover payment for resident services. 


COVID-19 in Arizona Nursing Homes.

While the COVID-19 virus has taken the world by surprise, measures already in place at nursing home residences should contain the spread of the virus.  A Tucson nursing home has confirmed that 24 of its residents and three employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the Sapphire of Tucson Nursing and Rehabilitation facility has 180 beds and is asking those who have been exposed, or are developing symptoms to self-isolate at home.  The residence has had below average ratings according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding health inspections, staffing and quality of care measures in the past two years along with about half of Arizona nursing homes who have been cited for infection control violations during their last three published inspections, including 74 homes with about 8,400 beds in total. If a resident dies due to deficiencies in standards of care, an experienced wrongful death attorney may be of assistance.


Infection control under Arizona Law.

Title 9 of Arizona’s Administrative Code concerning health care institution licensing has stringent guidelines that are made part of standard operating policy at nursing homes in Arizona.  They include Infection Control requirements, whereby an administrator is responsible to have an infection control program in place that meets State requirements to prevent or minimize, identify, report, and investigate infections and communicable diseases that include:

Isolating a patient;
Sterilizing equipment and supplies;
Maintaining and storing sterile equipment and supplies;
Disposing of biohazardous medical waste; and
Transporting and processing soiled linens and clothing.


And for the safety of residents, have additional outlined policy that specifies criteria preventing infected individuals, personnel or medical staff from:


Working in the facility;
Providing patient care; and
Providing environmental services.


Risk assessments must be conducted when a communicable disease possibility is first detected and isolation measures put into place immediately to reduce levels of risk to residents, medical staff, ancillary staff and visitors to an Arizona nursing home.  The Bureau of Long Term Care Licensing  ensures compliance for state and federal regulations of nursing homes by conducting regular surveys and complaint investigations.


Identifying deficiencies.

Please visit to check the AZ Care Check searchable database containing information about deficiencies found against facilities/providers by the Arizona Department of Health Services. A legal professional may be able to help with any questions or actions you might need to initiate if you find grossly negligent deficiencies that affect you or a loved one. 


Ombudsmen assistance.

If you believe that the nursing home you, or a loved one is residing in has not committed to the level care required under state and federal law, you can report negative actions to a certified ombudsmen, who routinely visits long-term care facilities to establish relationships with staff and residents in order to help resolve problems that arise in the course of daily living. Anyone may initiate a complaint on behalf of a resident by contacting the State Long Term Care Ombudsman at: Arizona State Long Term Care Ombudsman 1789 West Jefferson – 950A Phoenix, Arizona 85007 (602) 542-6454. When necessary a legal inquiry may be initiated.


Seek legal counsel.

Nursing homes may be liable for negligence in care, and/or negligence in training of staff, when a resident has had an illness exacerbated by staff negligence regarding COVID-19 infection control, causing deterioration in health or death. Legal counsel who specialize in nursing home law will be able to review individual cases and establish the need for any legal proceedings when warranted. 

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