By Andrea Nakano

NOVATO (CBS SF) — Family members who lost their loved ones in a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic are anxiously waiting news from the State Capitol. Gov. Gavin Newsom is looking at possibly giving healthcare providers broad immunity during this pandemic.

There is already a law that gives civil protection to healthcare providers during a declared emergency but that only includes hospitals and physicians. This latest push would expand immunity to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“It’s like a nightmare, just when we think it’s over another chapter comes up,” said Jaime Patino, who is an Union City councilman and grandson of a Gateway Care and Rehab Center resident.

Patino’s grandmother was the 10th victim from the Gateway COVID-19 outbreak to die of complications due to the coronavirus at the Hayward facility.

He can’t believe that Newsom is considering giving care facilities like Gateway full immunity from lawsuits and criminal prosecution.

“Don’t just listen to the lobby, listen to the families and the people that have suffered,” Patino said. “The people that still haven’t been able to bury their loved ones yet.”

Pat McGinnis, who is the executive director of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reforms couldn’t agree more with Patino.

“Granting immunity is basically saying to these facilities go ahead and do what you want,” she told KPIX 5.

McGinnis claims over the last 2 years, at least 50 percent of nursing homes in California have had infection control and prevention deficiencies. She feels these facilities were ill prepared from the start to control COVID-19.

“We don’t have a good regulatory oversight of these facilities,” she said. “We don’t require the kind of staffing that they need. We don’t require that the money gets paid to the staff because the are the ones giving the hands on care and not into the pockets of owners of these facilities.”

But according to Mark Reagan, the general counsel to the California Association of Health Facilities which is one of 6 healthcare groups pushing for for the executive order granting immunity, a wave of lawsuits could have devastating effects to the long term care industry.

“We have caregivers who are doing their absolute best every day, against impossible odds,” Reagan said. ” To allow the second guessing of those caregivers would be really unfortunate.”

To date, 15 states have already passed laws offering some legal protection. Newsom’s decision could come as soon as this week.

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