Life Care Center of Kirkland, epicenter of Seattle-area coronavirus outbreak, faces $611,000 fine

Tribune Content Agency

SEATTLE — Federal inspectors have found that a Kirkland nursing home failed to provide adequate care to residents during a novel coronavirus outbreak that claimed 37 lives, and that staff members continued to admit new residents well after they knew a respiratory illness was spreading at the facility.

In a scathing review, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, also cited findings that the Life Care Center of Kirkland attributed the outbreak in February to a typical flu, despite several residents with the illness testing negative for it.

Life Care faces a potential $611,000 fine and the loss of its Medicare and Medicaid funding if it does not correct multiple deficiencies cited by inspectors, CMS said in a letter to the nursing home’s director. Life Care Center spokesman Timothy Killian did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday.

Last week, when CMS released preliminary findings, Killian said the agency expected Life Care to “do things that no nursing home would be able to do” in the same situation.

Multiple findings by CMS reflect previous reporting by The Seattle Times, including that the nursing home continued to admit residents after noticing a respiratory outbreak on Feb. 10, and even after reporting it to health officials on Feb. 26. Interviews and a review of 911 call logs obtained by the Times indicated the disease could have appeared earlier.

Life Care staff have acknowledged being aware of a respiratory outbreak as early as Feb. 10. But CMS found cases of pneumonia or lower respiratory illness as early as Feb. 3, and noted in the report that four residents admitted between Feb. 11 and Feb. 24 contracted COVID-19 and died.

CMS found three areas of serious noncompliance by Life Care: failure to have 24-hour emergency physician services available after the medical director fell ill early on in the outbreak, failure to take all infection control measures and report promptly to health officials, and failure to provide quality care for residents during the outbreak.

Public health officials confirmed through test results at the end of February that COVID-19 was sickening residents at Life Care.


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