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VACCINE MANDATES ON THE RISE…AND LEGAL

If your company doesn’t require you to have a COVID-19 vaccine now, it might be just a matter of time. Reuters reports the results of a new survey show more than half of US companies plan to impose coronavirus vaccine mandates in their workplaces this year, and almost one quarter are considering requiring the vaccines as a condition of employment.

Many Courts are upholding these mandates, including our Nation’s highest Court. In August, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request from a group of Indiana University students to block the school’s requirement that students be vaccinated against the virus.

One of the other high-profile lawsuits so far was brought by employees of a Houston, Texas hospital. They filed suit after a vaccine mandate. The trial judge quickly threw out the lawsuit, stating the employees “are not participants in a human trial.”

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled this year that employers can make COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment. Private companies are free to set conditions of employment as long as they don’t violate state and federal laws.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed COVID-19 vaccines “safe and effective.” The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Gerald Harmon, urges the public and private sectors to mandate vaccinations. Dr. Harmon says the vaccines are the only way out of this pandemic.

Many Courts, in ruling in favor of upholding vaccine mandates, cite to a 116-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts to fine adult residents who refused to get the smallpox vaccine. In a 7-2 decision, Justice John Marshall Harlan, writing for the majority, wrote “every well-ordered society” is charged with keeping its citizens safe. And there are times, “under the pressure of great dangers,” when those citizens may be subjected to “reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”

The U.S. Supreme Court also upheld a smallpox vaccine requirement in public schools. Today, every state requires that students attending public and private schools receive certain vaccinations, with limited medical and religious exemptions.

In West Virginia, children entering public, private, or parochial school or state-regulated childcare must be immunized against chickenpox, hepatitis-b, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus, and whooping cough. See W. Va. Code § 16-3-4. The statute provides an exemption when a physician determines that the vaccination is contraindicated for a specific child and an immunization officer certifies that the exemption is appropriate. West Virginia is one of only a few states that has no religious exemption.

COVID SHOTS COULD BE ADDED TO THE VICP

On June 10, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced bipartisan legislation that would add Covid-19 vaccines to the injury compensation court established in the 1980s. The legislation is called the Vaccine Access Improvement Act. If the legislation passes, people who have been injured by a Covid-19 vaccine should have a better chance of obtaining compensation than they do now.

Early on in this pandemic, a Trump administration rule barred those injured by any Covid-19 vaccine from accessing the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Instead, those injured had to seek compensation through the rarely-used Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which is a different, separate fund run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The problem with that program is, rarely does anyone receive an award. If they do, it is usually smaller than an award received through the VICP. Also, the CICP provides a shorter time period to file your claim and does not pay attorney fees, so getting help to file a claim is difficult.

Bloomberg reported that adding new vaccines to the VICP requires either an act of Congress, or a notice and rulemaking process—which can often be lengthy. A bill by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) would make that process easier by giving the Department of Health and Human Services authority to add to the list of eligible shots.

The number of Covid-19 vaccine complications appears relatively low. In the U.S., severe allergic reactions to the shots occurred in about two to five people per million, according to the CDC.

Currently, it is unclear how much support the Vaccine Access Improvement Act has in the House or Senate. But it is a bill worth keeping an eye on if you have been injured by the Covid-19 vaccine.

Protecting Yourself from Medical Errors | Kathy Brown Law, PLLC

Medical Error: How You Can Protect Yourself

Too often, perhaps, we accept with little question the idea that doctors and medical professionals know what’s best, and patients are hesitant to question that authority. But the fact is, they’re not infallible. Prior to Covid-19, hospital and medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the United States – right behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. One in three people who are hospitalized suffer harm, injury or infection from medical mistakes, and the consequences can be long-term and far reaching
There are several factors that contribute to hospital and medical mistakes – doctors become overworked or burned out, poor teamwork and communications, and unsatisfactory training among them. Professionals in the field are developing a consensus on how to better train and build teams and implement better preventive protocols – but you as a patient can take steps to ensure you’re protected against — or in the event of — medical error:

Keep a Medical Diary

Write everything down – notes about your condition, your medications and what they’re for, and when and why they were prescribed. Keep detailed records of your visits with medical professionals and write down what was said during each session. Also, note any tests given, what the results were, and record all discussions with caregivers – any questions asked, and what the answers were.

Medication Log

List your medicines in a separate log and monitor the dosages. Keep notes on discussions with your doctor and pharmacist and make note of any change in medication and the reasons given for it.

Have a Buddy

Ask a friend, relative, or partner to stay with you while in treatment or during hospital/doctor visits. They can be your backup and extra set of eyes and ears.

Have a Living Will

It’s a hard thing to talk about, but inestimably important to have your wishes known and documented in the event you are incapacitated. Make sure your family and your doctor have a copy of your Living Will and know what your decisions and wishes are.

Do Your Research

Research your hospital’s safety rating and don’t be afraid to ask the Administrator questions about what protocols they have in place for improvements and upgrades. There are several resources you can use online to find your hospital’s rating, such as The Leapfrog Group.

You, as the patient, have the right to be a part of your treatment and care, and you should not feel intimidated or hesitant to ask questions and expect answers from your physician and medical personnel. Your life and health are important, and you have every right to know how your treatment is being handled and why. It is not only permissible, but imperative, for you to make yourself as integral a part of your medical team as your Primary Care Physician.

In the event that you believe you have experienced harm from medical error, please call us at 304-720-2351. (make click to call) We will be happy to meet with you for a free consultation.

Links:
Medical Errors: Tips on How to Prevent Them
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/self-care/medical-errors-tips-to-help-prevent-them.htm

20 Tips To Help Prevent Medical Error
http://archive.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/care-planning/errors/20tips/index.html

The Leapfrog Group
http://www.leapfroggroup.org/

Choosing With Care: Finding the Right Facility for Your Loved One’s Needs

Nursing homes, or Skilled Nursing Facilities, are an option for people who don’t necessarily require hospitalization or round-the-clock supervision and care, but need some medical or physical therapy assistance, or special care after surgery or during illness. Some nursing homes are set up as a hospital type of environment, while others are designed like homes or assisted living units. So once you know the basic criteria of what you’re looking for, here are some ideas to help you go about choosing the right facility for what you need:

Consult Your Hospital/Healthcare Provider

Hospitals usually employ social workers or hospice/assisted care advisors who likely have a list of skilled care facilities. Talk to friends, family, social/religious groups, and even family members who have loved ones in care. They can help you pick out some places and offer insight and recommendations.

Call Your Preliminary List of Options

– How many residents do they have?
– Is there a doctor on call, or do residents travel to see a physician?
– Is the schedule regimented, or more flexible?
– How many staff members are there? How many nurses or specialized personnel?
– What was the facility’s last evaluation rating? How were problems handled?
– What is the rate of turnover for both staff and residents?
– What is the basic fee structure; can you afford it?

Visit

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential facilities, ask for an appointment. You can get a first-hand look at the operations and make your own observations. Some suggestions:

– Check for safety hazards: some of these aren’t always obvious, like frayed carpets, for instance, or cracks in the floor. Also keep an eye out for raised doorsills, uneven tile or floorboards, electrical cords, and unusual bevels or bumps.

– Observe how the nurses/aides interact with people; do they address residents by name? Do they knock before entering the room? Do they know the resident’s habits, interests, schedule, and family names? Does the staff make sure that residents are stimulated and provided opportunities for activity and interaction, or are residents left alone for long periods of time?

– Cleanliness and safety of the facility: are the floors and surfaces clean and well-kept? Are the doors and windows equipped with locks or alarms? Are there cameras and/or other surveillance features? What is the facility’s current safety evaluation?

Visit Again

This time go to the facility unannounced, without calling ahead – perhaps a few days later, and try a different time of day so that you can observe other staff at work. Pop in during lunch and observe how mealtime is handled. How does the food look? How is it served? Is it nutritious and easily digestible? Are residents given the option of eating their own food preferences, and does the facility oblige religious dietary requirements, etc? Do staff interact with or sit with residents during mealtime and engage in conversation?

When You Choose

Ultimately, cost is going to be a big factor in your final decision, as well as quality of care and medicine. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask the facility director for clarification, and keep asking until you’re satisfied with the explanation.

You can find a list of skilled facilities that have been approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as a checklist of additional questions, at www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare.

There are also many available State Insurance Assistance Programs that can help you with choosing health insurance and finding other financial aid: (link to www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Payment.asp.

Other Links:

AARP: www.aarp.org
CMS: www.cms.gov
Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs: www.va.gov
National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center: www.ltcombudsman.org

For more information about how we can help you with your case, contact us or give us a call today at 304-720-2351.

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Kathy Brown Law, PLLC
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