By Josh Askvig | Bismarck

AARP North Dakota strongly opposes a bill in the North Dakota Legislature that grants nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other long-term care (LTC) facilities immunity related to COVID-19.

House Bill 1175 strips away the rights of residents and their families to seek legal redress and hold facilities accountable when residents are harmed, neglected or abused.

In North Dakota, about 10,000 people live in these facilities. More than 840 COVID-related deaths (approximately 60 percent) have occurred in them. While there may be some circumstances beyond a facility’s control, it is essential that these facilities remain responsible for any negligent actions.

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Over the course of the pandemic, most nursing home inspections have been suspended, family in-person visits were prohibited except in limited circumstances, and even ombudsman visits were restricted. There are fewer eyes observing what is actually happening in these facilities.

Residents of nursing homes and other LTC facilities may be unable to advocate for themselves and now have limited access to people who can advocate on their behalf. This lack of oversight is alarming and requires us to ensure that residents and their families still have the option to seek redress.

North Dakota should not strip away the rights and protections of nursing home residents. Nursing homes and other facilities should know they will be held responsible for providing the level of care that is required of them, and for which they are being compensated.

Call your legislators today and tell them to reject HB 1175.

Askvig is AARP North Dakota state director.