Staff at RegalCare New Haven celebrate Spirit Day. Photo provided

With respect, Gov. Ned Lamont, vacating legal immunity for healthcare providers is the wrong prescription.

On Feb. 8, the governor reversed his informed, insightful and foresighted executive order protecting health care providers from civil lawsuits related to COVID related infections and deaths.

Earlier in the pandemic, he recognized that the virus attacked the weakened immune system of older individuals. As evidence, he recently cited, in a press conference, that 88% of the deaths in Connecticut were in individuals who were aged 65 and over. We know that 68% of deaths occurred in skilled nursing facilities.

We, the Governor, and the acting Commissioner of the Department of Public Health know that the contributors of infections in health care provider settings (skilled nursing facilities and hospitals) are: 1. Prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, and, 2. the asymptomatic health care staff carrying COVID19 (CDC, April 4 2020). Combined with the compromised immune systems of lives well-lived, society is experiencing the most deadly virus since the Spanish Flu of 1917.

How is death of a person due to COVID19 the fault of a state licensed skilled nursing facility or hospital?

The reality is that more is coming. Variants from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil are here. More contagious, if not more severe and lethal. Rather than reconsidering immunity for the heroes of the pandemic, initiating the following would be more helpful:

  1. Testing of staff in hospitals needs to be improved;
  2. Vaccinations of patients being discharged to skilled nursing facilities must be mandatory;
  3. Motivate and incentivize staff vaccinations. Despite pleas from management, officials and celebrities, e.g. Tyler Perry, a significant portion of the skilled nursing homes staff, primarily staff of color,  have chosen to forego vaccination; and
  4. Finally, there is no plan to vaccinate new admissions (from any setting) and new staff of skilled nursing facilities. A major flaw in the strategy to protect the elderly in these facilities.

Recently, Massachusetts Sen.  Elizabeth Warren, was reported to have written in a letter to Genesis Healthcare, Inc., the largest provider of skilled nursing in the country,  that “given the pandemic’s staggering death toll in the U.S., it would not have been possible to prevent outbreaks at Genesis’ nursing facilities even with aggressive actions.”

Governor, I encourage you to reconsider. Your decision will result in wasted financial resources on litigation defense, settlements and increased insurance premiums which will neither improve patient care nor prevent COVID-19 infections.

Paul Liistro is the CEO of Vernon Manor and Manchester Manor.

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