Oakland- Bay Area News Group is suing Alameda County stating they are violating the state’s Public Records Act by not providing information about COVID-19 cases in senior long-term care facilities and deaths occurred in the facilities related to the virus.
They have filed a request with the county health department in April asking for basic COVID-19 data of long term care facilities, but the county denied the requests, without any explanation or citing any exemptions under the law.
The County Health Department spokeswoman, Neetu Balram, emailed the Bay Area News Group stating they are not releasing the information in order to protect the nursing homes’ and similar facilities’ privacy.
Bert Robinson, a senior editor for the Bay Area News Group, said, said that “It’s really quite extraordinary that Alameda County would deprive its residents of information about whether their loved ones are in mortal danger because it believes the nursing homes have some sort of right to privacy…I frankly wonder how the bureaucrats offering that argument can sleep at night. They must not have any relatives in nursing homes.”
At least 2300 patients and staff in nursing homes all over California have died of coronavirus according to state data, and more than 9,900 nursing facilities patients have been infected along the way.
Alameda County nursing homes took a big hit- Gateway Rehabilitation and Care Center in Hayward, East Bay Post Acute in Castro Valley, and Excel Care Center in Oakland count at least 35 COVID-19 related deaths and around 200 patients and staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
At the moment, there is an ongoing criminal investigation of Gateway opened by the County’s District Attorney’s Office. The only death and infection data the county released were the ones those facilities already disclosed.
After April 20th, the county rejected all requests for these types of data invoking the HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, preventing them from disclosing any individual patient information.
The lawsuit strongly argues the county’s record denials as not supported by the law, HIPAA including. It also points out how other countries, such as Los Angeles and Santa Clara, are disclosing the same information.
To this day, the state Department of Public Health has released unclear and incomplete data about deaths and infections. The number of deaths in their reports is inaccurate, and the public still doesn’t know the total number of those in nursing homes positive to coronavirus.
The lawsuits ask the county to provide information about all confirmed cases of Covid-19, the total number of those positive for the virus and the total number of deaths at each skilled nursing home, assisting living facility, residential care facility, and similar. It states that “…without disclosure of basic and accurate information… neither families with members currently placed in long-term care facilities or those looking to place a loved one at such facilities will truly understand the risks associated with the particular placement.”
If you are experiencing issues with obtaining similar records and information from the nursing facility where your loved ones are residing, you can call experienced personal injury lawyers at JTLegal to get professional legal advice and help.