Hero Nursing Home Chain Did All It Could To Stop COVID-19 Except When It Didn't
One of the biggest nursing home chains in the country, Life Care Centers of America, has an itty-bitty problem following federal guidelines on infection control, according to federal inspection documents obtained by the Washington Post. The company insists it's really doing its very best in a difficult situation, so if you want to know who's really falling down on the job, it's the media, which is reporting on the deficiencies, like staff members who were observed by federal inspectors not wearing masks, not washing their hands, or not enforcing isolation of infected patients at several facilities run by Life Care, OK?
It's a very difficult situation, and we're all trying our best, especially the Republicans who want to make sure nobody gets sued for negligence during this pandemic.
The Post is careful to point out that the inspection reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is responsible for regulating long-term care facilities, all cover the period following the nation's first widespread nursing home outbreak, at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, where more than 100 residents contracted COVID-19 and at least 37 have died. The reports, based on inspections done over the last six weeks, don't include the Kirkland facility at all; rather, they cover a variety of other Life Care facilities' failures to follow federal infection-control regulations. The Post based its story on a "batch of inspection reports for 26 Life Care homes from CMS" as well as from the state of Michigan and from Life Care itself. The story notes that in 16 of the inspections, "regulators found no deficiencies."
But hoo boy, there's plenty of stuff that shouldn't be going on. In addition to reports of staff not washing their hands or following social distancing guidelines, the reports uncovered:
- A Denver home where the door to an isolation room was left open and the resident went out into the hall with no mask, sitting near the rooms of healthy residents.
- A Denver-area home where a "nursing aide helping a resident with a soiled bedpan did not wash her hands when she was done."
- A second Colorado facility where "a nursing assistant hovered 12 inches from the face of a coughing patient who was not wearing a mask."
- A Kansas nursing home in which the infection control log didn't list two residents who had fevers. One of them died after going to a hospital with a 103-degree fever.
- A Michigan home where a staffer moved a blood pressure monitor from an isolation room to a healthy patient's room without sterilizing the equipment.
- A Detroit-area home where staff shared gowns, and "one nursing assistant acknowledged not knowing which patients had covid-19 and required isolation."
- Another Michigan facility where "inspectors found residents in a hallway who were not wearing masks and an aide who delivered meals without wearing gloves or a gown, even though the residents were at risk of respiratory infection."
seen at least 2,000 cases and 250 deaths among residents and staff, according to a Post tally of state data and local media accounts. Five Life Care nursing homes have experienced outbreaks of 100 or more cases.
First, Life Care spokesperson Tim Killian has an incredibly good point:
We have a virus that has attacked our vulnerable populations who have co-morbidities, and that has made this extremely difficult to manage [...] We need help. We need hands on the ground. We need money. We need equipment. We need doctors. And none of that is happening in a significant way anywhere in the country.
But then Killian did his very best to sound like a corporate talking head from a classic "60 Minutes" story from the 1970s. You can almost see the ghost of Mike Wallace waiting to pounce on this carefully parsed stuff:
Choosing a handful of reports, especially during this time of great difficulty, has allowed the press to paint a picture of our company that does not accurately reflect our values or the hard work we do every day to take care of our residents and staff.
Life Care's President, Beecher Hunter, said in an email to the Post that you can't go around expecting perfection, for all have sinned and fall short of the greatness of God, not to mention federal infection control rules:
Life Care Centers of America and its affiliated facilities are not perfect; no organization is because it is made up of people, and people are imperfect human beings [...] Our healthcare heroes will from time to time unfortunately fall below our standards for resident care.
Yeah, the place was founded by an evangelical, how could you tell? Mr. Hunter apparently had no comment on having a name that more properly belonged to a John Grisham character.
The Post also spoke to a number of current and former staffers at Life Care homes, who didn't paint a pretty picture either. A former receptionist at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley, near Boston, said she'd quit her job out of fear of the virus and what she saw as the company's inaction:
"I was literally surrounded by covid," she said. "I just told my kids, 'Please never put me in one of those places. These people live their whole lives — there are teachers, poets and everything else — and this is what they're ending their lives with?' "
Another former employee at the facility said the place was chronically short-staffed, and that she was "terrified for myself and my co-workers [...] It kept getting worse and worse and worse." Seems she wasn't alone in her concerns, either!
Several caregivers at the home told The Post they had no time to wash their hands, change soiled linens or help immobile patients get out of bed. One nursing aide said she found herself caring for 30 patients at once, helping them into bathrooms with filthy toilets or out of beds soaked in urine.
Local officials also said they'd had difficulty getting information from the company on what was going on in the home. Life Care spox Killian pointed out that an April 10 inspection had found no infection-control problems, but the Post undermines that achievement by noting that at the time, "dozens of people were infected and about 10 had died, including Maria Krier, a nurse who had quit her job at the end of March after developing a fever. She died on the day of the inspection."
Killian complained that "This environment of sort of conspiracy theories and negative news stories that has set a narrative and tone . . . we think is simply incorrect" and also
said local politicians and others created "acrimony" in the community by alleging that Life Care did not properly report the spread of infection.
In conclusion, Mitch McConnell better hurry up and make sure these brave healthcare heroes don't get sued, because everything was fine and it's only politicians, the press, and disgruntled former employees saying otherwise.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.