Life Care Center of Kirkland fined $611,000 over coronavirus outbreak response

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- A Kirkland nursing home that last month became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state has been fined more than $600,000 for its response to COVID-19.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also threatening to revoke Life Care Center's participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs if corrective action isn't taken. It fined the facility $13,585 per day of violations over a period of six weeks - $611,000 total.

According to a report issued last month by the CDC, at least 37 coronavirus deaths have been linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland, which failed to report the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents in the home.

Public health authorities found the facility didn’t have enough personal protective equipment or other items such as alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They also said staff members worked with symptoms and sometimes didn’t know about or follow recommendations about protecting their eyes or being careful while in close contact with ill patients.

Nursing home officials also were slow to think that symptoms might be caused by coronavirus, and faced problems from limited testing ability, according to the report. Nearly two-thirds of the facility's residents and staff were infected.

About 57% of the patients at the nursing home were hospitalized after getting infected. Of those, more than 1 in 4 died. No staff members died.

“If L.C.C. of Kirkland does not correct all deficiencies and return to full compliance by September 16, 2020, then C.M.S. will terminate your facility from participating in the Medicare/Medicaid program,” CMS officials wrote in the letter.