Patients at St. Elizabeths reached a settlement with the hospital and the District of Columbia in their lawsuit over the unlawful circumstances surrounding a water shut-off in October 2019 and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the settlement, the District must put new emergency preparedness measures into place to safeguard patients from any harm they may have sustained during these previous events.
Patients at St. Elizabeth are mostly Black, have impairments, and are dependent on the District for treatment.
When the hospital’s water supply was cut off in 2019 due to bacterial contamination, many patients’ vital care was stopped, and all patients had little to no access to hot food, baths, and other necessities of basic hygiene.
From March to May 2020, more than 187 hospital patients developed COVID, which led to 14 patient deaths, as the COVID pandemic struck in the wake of the water crisis. The likelihood of developing COVID at this time, according to the court’s estimation, was 40 times higher in St. Elizabeths than it would have been for a resident of the neighborhood.
A preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order were given by the court in April and May 2020, respectively, and they ordered the District to follow CDC recommendations by increasing the use of COVID medical isolation and testing all patients and employees for the virus.
The hospital was unable to justify its “perilous practice” of isolating patients, and the court found that D.C. officials’ “significant deviation from professional judgment” was demonstrated by their “delay in testing all employees and their absence of a plan to continue testing all patients and staff.”
The injunction lasted for over a year, and throughout that time there were fewer illnesses and fatalities than before it.
By the terms of the current settlement, the District must take proactive measures to protect patient safety, ensure that they are receiving the necessary medical and mental health care, and guarantee that they are not involuntarily placed in restrictive environments in the event of an emergency.
John A. Freedman, Senior Pro Bono Counsel at Arnold & Porter, remarked, “We are happy to have been able to accomplish this fantastic result for our clients. Although the early pandemic’s events were tragic, this settlement will assist St. Elizabeths to be better equipped to safeguard patient health in the event of any future catastrophes.
A lawsuit claiming dangerous conditions existed during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early stages
In February 2021, a group of patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., reached a settlement with the facility and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit alleging harmful circumstances during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The patients, who were represented by Disability Rights DC at the time, claimed that the hospital failed to take adequate steps to protect them from COVID-19, such as providing sufficient personal protective equipment, implementing appropriate social distancing measures, and ensuring that staff members were properly trained in infection control practices. They also alleged that the hospital’s response to the pandemic caused harm to patients, including increased isolation, lack of access to medical care, and deterioration of mental health.
Under the terms of the settlement, the hospital and the District agreed to take several steps to improve conditions and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the facility. These included developing and implementing a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan, ensuring that staff members receive adequate training and equipment, providing additional mental health and medical services to patients, and allowing for increased communication between patients and their families.
The settlement also required the hospital and the District to provide financial compensation to the patients who filed the lawsuit. The amount of compensation was not publicly disclosed.
On May 11, President Biden will cease the nation’s COVID-19 crisis
WATERLOO – Almost three years after they were first proclaimed, President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for resolving COVID-19 on May 11. This is because most of the world has begun to return to a more normal state.
The federal coronavirus response would be legally restructured to treat the virus as an endemic hazard to public health that can be addressed through agencies’ regular authorities if the decision to end the national emergency and public health emergency designations are made.
The emergency provisions that kept millions of Americans insured during the pandemic have already been curtailed by Congress. It would also delink the creation of vaccines and treatments from the direct control of the federal government, along with the withdrawal of the majority of the federal COVID-19 relief funds.
In a statement rejecting resolutions that House Republicans are bringing to the floor this week to end the emergency immediately, Biden made his announcement. Republicans in the House are preparing to open probes into how the federal government handled COVID-19.
On March 13, 2020, then-President Donald Trump originally proclaimed the COVID-19 epidemic a national emergency. Since he entered office in January 2021, Biden has regularly extended the emergency, and they are about to expire. According to the White House, Biden intends to short extend them both until May 11.
The Office of Management and Budget stated in a Statement of Administration Policy that “an abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans.”
As political pressure to end the proclamation grew, Congress already limited the impact of the public health emergency that affected Americans most directly. The Biden administration asked lawmakers for billions of additional funds to provide free COVID immunizations and testing, but they have refused to do so for months. Additionally, a provision that prevented states from removing people from Medicaid was repealed as part of the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year and signed into law by Biden. As a result, millions of people are anticipated to lose their insurance coverage starting on April 1.
As soon as the government stops purchasing COVID-19 vaccines, the price is predicted to soar, with Pfizer stating that it will charge as much as $130 per dosage. The revised booster that has been suggested and made available since last fall has only been received by 15% of Americans.
After the emergency is over, individuals with private insurance will have some out-of-pocket fees for shots, testing, and treatment, while those without insurance will be responsible for paying the whole cost of those costs.
Legislators did expand the telehealth flexibility provisions they had introduced as COVID-19 took effect, causing healthcare systems all around the nation to routinely provide care via computer or smartphone.
The Biden administration had contemplated calling off the emergency last year but decided against it due to worries about a probable “winter surge” in cases and to give providers, insurers, and patients more time to prepare.
During the three months leading up to the expiration, according to a senior administration official, the administration will “begin the process of a seamless operational wind-down of the flexibilities granted by the COVID-19 emergency declarations.” The official discussed the announcement before it was made public while requesting anonymity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID-19 since 2020, including roughly 3,700 last week.
After a minor increase over the holiday season, case numbers have been trending downward and are now much lower than over the previous two winters, even though there has been a sharp decline in the number of tests conducted for the virus and reported to public health officials.