CMS found ‘immediate jeopardy’ situations in nursing home where coronavirus ravaged residents, staff

CMS conducted an inspection of a nursing home based in Kirkland, Washington, the Life Care Center, considered to be the epicenter of the state’s outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Over a course of several weeks, two-thirds of the nursing home’s residents fell ill with COVID-19, as well as 47 workers. Overall, 35 people have died from the virus, exemplifying a worst-case scenario of the disease. COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the elderly by causing more severe illness and often requiring intensive care.

The inspection could provide critical information to other nursing homes and healthcare facilities around the country grappling with the COIVD-19 pandemic. Already, 147 nursing homes in 27 states have reported at least one resident with COVID-19, CDC data shows. Across the nation, 1.3 million people are permanent residents in nursing homes.

“The coronavirus outbreak at Life Care was an unprecedented situation for the state of Washington,” Washington Department of Social & Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange said in a statement. “We have worked closely with our federal partners over the last several weeks to determine what lead to the outbreak there and what contributed to its spread throughout the facility. We have learned valuable lessons. We are applying these lessons daily in our efforts to prepare long term care facilities throughout the state for the potential of COVID-19.”

The biggest issues that turned up in the inspection included a failure to quickly identify and manage ill residents, failure to notify the state about the issue and failure to possess a backup plan once the facility’s primary clinician became sick, according to CMS. Inspectors found three immediate jeopardy situations where patients were in imminent danger. The inspection was conducted March 16 by two federal surveyors who observed patient care, while Washington State staff from the Department of Social and Health Services State Survey Agency reviewed documents.

The inspection was conducted by CMS utilizing President Trump’s Emergency Declaration that allowed enhanced flexibilities with input from the CDC. The inspection process includes a self-assessment tool for providers to employ, according to CMS.

CMS and the CDC are collaborating to study nursing homes with cases of COVID-19 and use the information to predict where the virus may go next.

“…Patient safety starts with the front-line healthcare provider, so we’ve developed a self-assessment tool in coordination with the CDC,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Today, we’re issuing a call to action to nursing homes, hospitals, and the entire healthcare system: Don’t wait to be inspected. Starting today, you can––and should––use CMS’s self-assessment tool to ensure you’re prepared to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.”

As CMS conducts these inspections on infection control, routine inspections are temporarily postponed. Only complaint inspections, targeted infection control inspections and self-assessments will be conducted in the next few weeks.