KIRKLAND, Wash. — Life Care Center of Kirkland is facing a $611,325 fine after federal surveyors found "immediate jeopardy" situations during an inspection of the nursing home believed to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state.
That amount could be increased or decreased based on future inspections and compliance, according to a letter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Additionally, Life Care Center may lose its Medicare provider agreement, among other penalties, if it is found out of compliance.
The immediate jeopardy specifically included: the facility's failure to quickly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington State Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents, and failure to possess a backup plan following the absence of the Life Care Center's primary clinician - who became ill.
According to a CDC report, in early March there were 129 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in connection to the Life Care Center, including 81 residents, 34 staff members and healthcare personnel, and 14 visitors.
“The coronavirus outbreak at Life Care was an unprecedented situation for the state of Washington,” Washington Department of Social & Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange previously said. “We have worked closely with our federal partners over the last several weeks to determine what lead to the outbreak there and what contributed to its spread throughout the facility. We have learned valuable lessons. We are applying these lessons daily in our efforts to prepare long term care facilities throughout the state for the potential of COVID-19. Our regulatory teams are highly focused on visiting all nursing homes in Washington state to ensure those who care for some of our most vulnerable citizens are practicing proper infection control.”
Life Care Center of Kirkland released a response Thursday afternoon in regards to the findings:
"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been a valuable partner to us over the years as we continue to make patient care our top priority. This past weekend, we successfully worked with CMS to remove three Immediate Jeopardy citations. We will continue to work with CMS to find solutions to their ongoing concerns. We receive routine visits from CMS to ensure we’re following the correct protocols to ensure quality resident-centered care. Prior to this, we were honored to have achieved a 5-star overall rating from CMS; the highest rating given to nursing homes. We are working hard to address their current concerns in a timely and respectful manner so as to provide our residents the best care. The federal administrative process provides a means for us to dispute any findings which we believe are incorrect, and we believe some are here. However, we will follow CMS’ process and not address our responses in the public."
Following the release of the findings, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services issued a "stop placement" order for the facility. That means the facility cannot accept any new residents until it shows the issues have been corrected and they are in compliance with CMS.
One of the other conditions of the "stop placement" order is the facility must hire a long term care medical director, not associated with the facility, experienced with internal care and infectious diseases to help the facility come into compliance.