As our loved ones age, we are faced with the decision of whether to entrust their care to a nursing home. Widespread cases of nursing home abuse make that decision even harder. We expect a nursing home to protect our elder population from illness, not expose them to new illness. That is exactly what two people in North Dakota are alleging ManorCare Health Services did last year. In a federal lawsuit filed in early April, 78-year-old John Fenner, and 84-year-old Lilas Guttormson allege ManorCare failed to protect them from a massive Hepatitis C outbreak in its facility in Minot, North Dakota.
Forty-four people living in the ManorCare facility were infected, which accounts for one-quarter of the total Hepatitis C infections in the U.S. since 2008 and is the second largest outbreak on record. Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. In fact, it is the primary reason for liver transplants in the U.S.
Both the North Dakota Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the outbreak, but the state epidemiologist stated in the preliminary report that they do not know the cause of the outbreak. Foot care, nail care services, and blood services are among the possible causes being investigated. The final report will be published this summer. In the meantime, the attorney for Mr. Fedder and Mrs. Guttormson is trying to make the suit a class action to include all the infected residents, which – if successful – could result in substantial damages due to the nursing home’s negligence.