|While many rules have been relaxed, at least temporarily, it seems clear that there is going to be a day of reckoning at some point in the future. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is the fact that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed to sanction the Life Care facility in Kirkland, Washington, that experienced an early outbreak of COVID-19. Specifically, CMS proposes to fine the facility $611,000, and to decertify it from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid Programs and all other state and federal healthcare programs.
Surveyors concluded that the staff at Life Care failed to:
· Rapidly identify and manage sick residents, even as the number of respiratory infections spiraled
· Notify the state Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents
· Develop and implement a backup plan in the absence of Life Care’s primary doctor, who fell ill
Now Life Care has been hit with what may the first of many wrongful death lawsuits filed against it by family members of COVID-19 patients who died at the facility. The lawsuit claims that the negligence of the Life Care Center was a “proximate cause” of the patient’s injuries and “ultimate death resulting from neglect and negligence.” The lawsuit also claims that the nursing home “engaged in fraud by concealing, suppressing and failing to disclose material facts.” Just imagine the amount of time, resources and money that Life Care will need to respond and defend against various claims!
The lesson for providers is that they must be sure they are complying with current requirements. There is a lot of misinformation flying around and it’s easy for providers to get tripped up. Nonetheless, providers must ensure that they are doing it right in order to avoid a day of legal reckoning that could threaten their businesses in the future. When the state of emergency is over, it will be business as usual and providers will surely be held responsible for their actions. Don’t pay the price retrospectively!
©2020 Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq. All rights reserved