Lawsuit accuses Geneva nursing home of failing to follow coronavirus guidelines

  • The family of a Bria of Geneva resident who died April 26 from coronavirus complications has sued the nursing home, alleging it ignored directives from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and guidance from government health agencies.

    The family of a Bria of Geneva resident who died April 26 from coronavirus complications has sued the nursing home, alleging it ignored directives from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and guidance from government health agencies. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/18/2020 7:12 PM

The family of a Bria of Geneva resident who died from coronavirus complications has sued the nursing home, claiming it failed to implement adequate measures to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The complaint, filed Monday, alleges the long-term care facility at 1101 E. State St. ignored directives from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and guidance from other state and federal agencies, "leaving its vulnerable residents defenseless against the community spread of the virus."

 

Bria of Geneva's negligence, the suit says, led to the April 26 death of resident Helen A. Osucha, whose health had been deteriorating rapidly. Despite her symptoms and the facility's assumption she had been infected, the complaint claims, Osucha had not been isolated or tested for the coronavirus before she died.

"They essentially didn't protect neither the residents, nor their own employees," said Peter Flowers, the attorney representing Osucha's estate. "They took absolutely no precautions to prevent against the spread of (COVID-19) in a population of highly vulnerable people."

Bria of Geneva has experienced one of the state's largest and deadliest outbreaks, with 112 cases and 22 deaths reported as of Friday, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

After its first case was confirmed April 17, the nursing home did not procure sufficient testing kits for residents until about week later, according to the lawsuit. By then, 55 residents had been diagnosed with the virus, and one had died.

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The complaint also claims the facility failed to follow several preventive directives issued in March, including enforcing social distancing, ensuring accessibility to personal protective equipment, regularly screening residents and staff members, isolating residents with signs of the infection, and immediately contacting the county and state health departments about symptomatic residents.

In a written statement, Bria Health Services said the Geneva facility has been following public health guidelines, which have "continuously evolved" as more information about the virus has come to light.

"Because testing was not immediately accessible, the high number of asymptomatic carriers among residents and staff created a silent enemy impossible to detect and difficult to defeat," the statement said.

"These form the backdrop of why the state of Illinois has granted immunity to health care providers for injuries stemming from the diagnoses, transmission and treatment of COVID-19."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

More than 50 residents and 33 employees who tested positive have recovered or remain asymptomatic as of Monday, Bria officials added.

The lawsuit claims Osucha did not receive adequate care or treatment after she became infected in late March or early April, causing her to suffer "severe and debilitating injuries of a personal and pecuniary nature." She was bedridden and unable to eat or use the toilet on her own, the suit says, and she died without the comfort of her family.

The facility also did not notify Osucha's daughter, Pamela Colwell, that her mother had fallen gravely ill, according to the complaint.

"They essentially hid it," Flowers said. "This family and many other families all deserved to know what was going on and weren't advised."

Colwell, administrator of Osucha's estate, seeks in excess of $50,000, plus attorney fees and "further relief," according to the suit.

Flowers also called for the state health department to "take a more active role" to ensure nursing homes follow proper protocol -- and shut down those that don't.

"They're supposed to be the oversight and, frankly, they're not," he said. "They need to be earlier and more responsive in these facilities."

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