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Seattle-Area Nursing Home Linked to Dozens Of Coronavirus Deaths Faces $600,000 Fine

In a statement, Life Care Center of Kirkland has "successfully" worked with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to address the "Immediate Jeopardy" citations.
Ted S. Warren
In a statement, Life Care Center of Kirkland has "successfully" worked with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to address the "Immediate Jeopardy" citations.

A Seattle-area nursing home connected to more than two dozen coronavirus deaths is facing more than $600,000 in fines and the possibility of losing federal funding after officials documented a series of flaws in the facility's handling of the outbreak.

The federal government set a September deadline for the Life Care Centers of Kirkland to comply with federal regulations.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday sent a letter to Life Care Center of Kirkland. It stated that during inspections of the facility last month, officials "found the most serious deficiencies to be widespread and constituting in Immediate Jeopardy to resident health or safety."

The facility, located in a suburb east of Seattle, no longer met the requirements to participate in the Medicare program, according to CMS, which is also assessing per-day fines of $13,585.

Those penalties, effective from Feb. 12 through March 27, resulted in a total of $611,325.

According to CMS documents dated last month, Life Care Center of Kirkland Executive Director Ellie Basham was notified about several "immediate jeopardy situations."

Those included failure to have emergency physician services available 24-hours a day or have an emergency plan in place when a physician is "unavailable to assist with a high volume of residents during a crisis situation."

The CMS documents also said the facility failed to have an infection control surveillance program that analyzes and takes steps to mitigate a crisis. It also said the Kirkland facility failed to provide and forward reports to the State Department of Health in a timely manner.

Officials added the facility failed to "provide quality care and services for residents during a respiratory outbreak."

Life Care Center of Kirkland said in a statementThursday it worked with CMS over the weekend to "remove three Immediate Jeopardy citations."

"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," the statement continued.

The news of the CMS fines were first reported by the Washington Post, which also found the nursing home facility waited more than two weeks after it "began discouraging visitors on Feb. 10 because of the illness among residents, which it assumed to be seasonal influenza."

Life Care Center of Kirkland last month was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. King County, which includes Kirkland, confirms at least 37 people associated with the nursing home have died from COVID-19 related complications.

A March 18 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 129 cases of COVID-19 were associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland. This included at the time 81 residents, 34 staffers and 14 visitors.

"Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to intra- and interfacility spread," the CDC report found.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.