AARP AZ Statement on SB1377 – Civil Liability: Pandemic

Posted on 02/11/21

AARP AZ State Director Dana Marie Kennedy testified on February 11, 2021 in the Judiciary Committee in regards to SB1377 – Civil Liability: Pandemic. A Bill that provides Immunity Liability to businesses and Long Term Care Facilities.  We asked for the bill to be amended and exclude Long Term Care Facilities.   SB1377 passed 5-3 and moves on to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Chair and members of the committee, I am Dana Marie Kennedy, State Director for AARP Arizona. We are a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization with over 900,000 members in Arizona.

On March 11, 2020, I stood with the Governor and commended his Executive Order to closing down Arizona’s long-term care facilities to protect the most vulnerable, and have since worked with his staff and LTC Task Force on visitation guidance.

I then spent months voicing my concern about the lack of adequate PPE and testing in these facilities. I advocated by speaking with the press, community partners, state legislators, and the Arizona Congressional delegation. I represented AARP in the House Ways and Means Committee about what was happening in LTC Facilities. I begged Congress to provide LTC facilities with the resources they desperately needed to protect the residents and staff.

Admittedly, at the beginning of the pandemic, LTC facilities did not have what they needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, these facilities have since been given millions of dollars from the Federal Government for PPE, testing, and to increase staff wages to mitigate the spread.  They now have what they need to protect residents and staff.

From our advocacy, families have reached out, desperate for answers about their loved ones. They are counting on AARP to be their voice. I talked to these families who were unable to see or communicate with their loved ones, phone calls went unanswered. Families are critical in recognizing abuse and neglect and they were not let in even after the LTC Task force passed visitation guidance. Even the ombudsmen were also not allowed in. I even received calls from staff of these facilities that they were being told to come to work, even when showing symptoms of COVID.

80% of these facilities had citations for infections control before Covid, and many were cited during Covid including citations for staff not wearing PPE correctly. Long-term care facilities must remain responsible when their wrong doing threatens the health—and lives—of residents and staff.

The death toll from COVID-19 in our nursing homes is a disgrace. Nationally, 39% of the deaths have been in LTC Facilities.  Americans have died alone and afraid, without family by their sides.  In Arizona, more than 2,200 residents have died in skilled nursing facilities and this does not even include Assisted Living Facilities.

The difference between a typical business and a LTC facility during a pandemic is clear: consumers can choose their level of risk and LTC residents don’t. They were not even allowed to leave. They were locked in and families were locked out.

LTC facilities must remain responsible and held to a higher standard when their wrong doing threatens the health and lives of residents and staff. Litigation must remain an option of last resort. This legislation will put too high of a bar on families who are seeking justice; no family member who has lost a loved one due to neglect or abuse pursues this course of action lightly.

What if it was you or your loved one?

We respectfully would like to see this bill amended to exclude the LTC facilities.

Thank you for your consideration.

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