Her Son Died From COVID-19. Now She's Suing The Austin Nursing Home Where He Worked.

May 14, 2020

Maurice Dotson died April 17, weeks after contracting COVID-19. The 51-year old worked as a nurse’s aide at West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in South Austin, and that’s where his family believes he contracted the coronavirus.

Maurice Dotson, a nurse's aide at West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, died in April after testing positive for COVID-19.
Credit Courtesy of Felicia Dodson Hill

“Days before Maurice Dotson died, he told his mother, ‘I got the virus at work, but I'm gonna be all right,’” Quentin Brogdon, an attorney in Dallas, said. “He died within a few days of having that conversation.”

Florence Dodson (who spells her name differently than her son) is now suing the company that owns West Oaks, Regency Integrated Health Services, for failing to adequately protect her son, other staff members and residents from the spread of the coronavirus.

As KUT reported earlier this month, EMS crews considered West Oaks a high-risk facility for COVID-19 as early as April 11. Austin Public Health reported this week there are 18 deaths among residents and one staff member at an unnamed nursing home facility, but all indications are it is West Oaks. Dozens more staff members and residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A team from the Texas National Guard disinfected the facility earlier this week.

Dodson's lawsuit alleges Regency waited too long to provide enough personal protective equipment to staff and didn’t provide adequate training to prevent the virus from spreading.

“It's our position that by the first week of March, long-term care facilities were aware that COVID-19 was an imminent threat to the residents and employees,” said Kathleen Kearney, a Dallas attorney who is also representing Dodson and her son's estate. “And by mid-March, there were state and federal regulations enacted that outlined what long-term care facilities needed to do to protect their patients and their employees. And Regency didn't do those things.”

Regency will not comment on pending legal issues and has not been made aware of the filing, according to Brooke Lander, its senior vice-president for business development.

The company previously has said it added protective measures immediately after the first cases of the coronavirus were confirmed at West Oaks in late March. It said it also began preparing in March for eventual outbreaks at its facilities across the state, including acquiring personal protective equipment for all staff.

“We are also in constant communication with all our facility administrators ensuring new protocols are understood and enforced and that every staff member is well equipped with the tools they need to stay healthy so that they can continue to care for our patients,” CEO Larry Deering wrote in a letter posted to the agency’s website last month.

The attorneys said Dodson is suing to prevent more deaths at the facility.

“We don't believe there's any other staff member who has died, but we want to stop that from happening,” Kearney said. “So if this lawsuit will encourage Regency West Oaks to make permanent changes to their infection control practices, we will have achieved our goal.”

Got a tip? Email Samuel King at samuel@kut.org. Follow him @SamuelKingNews.

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