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Inspectors Say Major Nursing Home Chain Violated Standards, Increasing COVID-19 Risks

One of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, Life Care Centers of America, violated federal infection control standards, which may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among residents at its facilities, according to recent inspections.

According to a recent report published by The Washington Post, Life Care Centers failed to meet standards designed to stop the spread of infections at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The report indicates federal investigators have found the chain continued to fail to meet these basic standards, even after a number of its facilities suffered COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths.

Government inspectors found problems in at least 10 Life Care nursing homes over the past six weeks, not including those found at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state, where the first reported COVID-19 outbreak emerged in February 2020.

As of mid-April, that one nursing home had seen at least 129 coronavirus cases and 37 related deaths. Across all Life Care nursing homes, the chain’s residents and employees have experienced at least 2,000 COVID-19 infections and 250 deaths.

Inspectors reported incidents at various nursing homes nationwide, which included infected patients visiting the rooms of other patients without a face mask, nurses just a foot away from the faces of coughing patients, and other failures of infection control protocols.

The chain has a history of problems with nursing home neglect, including a $145 million settlement with the Department of Justice in 2016 over claims it shorted residents on care while maximizing payments from Medicare. The settlement, in which the company did not admit guilt, included a five-year corporate integrity agreement requiring annual reviews.

Many nursing homes are struggling to protect the population older and at-risk individuals living in long-term care facilities, which have become a breeding ground for the virus. Since many residents have serious underlying health conditions, which complicate coronavirus illnesses, recent reports suggest more than 12,000 coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing homes nationwide.

Accusations similar to those leveled against Life Care Centers are being aimed at nursing homes nationwide, with critics suggesting that some of the hardest hit facilities have long records of insufficient and other failures that demonstrate they were ill-prepared for the outbreak. In many cases, families complain they weren’t told there was an outbreak, or were not told some facilities were specifically taking in coronavirus patients, which sometimes spread to other residents in the facilities.

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration called for COVID-19 testing for all nursing home residents and staff nationwide.

Currently, there are more than 1.4 million reported cases of coronavirus infection reported across the U.S., as well as more than 88,000 deaths.

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