Washington Nursing Home Called U.S. Coronavirus Deaths' 'Ground Zero' Fires Back at Claim More Could Be Done

Patient being removed from Life Care Center in Washington.
Patient being removed from Washington nursing home. Getty

Federal inspectors say a Washington nursing home with a deadly coronavirus cluster failed to flag illnesses.

A Washington nursing home considered ground zero for U.S. coronavirus deaths failed to notify regional officials of a surge in respiratory illness and did not “rapidly identify and manage ill residents,” according to federal inspectors.

The Life Care Center in Kirkland has one of the nation's deadliest clusters of the virus, with 37 deaths linked to its facility, and also had no backup plan when its primary physician became sick, the inspectors said.

The findings were reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Inspectors were dispatched earlier this month to investigate the elderly home's surging death toll. State health officials went with them, the agency said.

"We disagree with that assessment," Tim Killian, a public liaison for the center, told InsideEdition.com Tuesday. "Our facility experienced an outbreak of a largely unknown viral pandemic," he said.

"We're disappointed that CMS, instead of reaching a hand out to help, instead is using a finger" to point blame at the home's health care staff, he said. 

Since their first patient tested positive last month, the Life Care Center has been deluged by anxious relatives who said they were not able to receive information on their loved ones and were reduced to tapping on residents' windows for a glimpse of their relatives. 

Saying they were panicked, family members held a press conference earlier this month outside the facility and told local reporters they weren't able to get their relatives, or home staff, on the phone. One woman said she had been told her mother had died, then received another call, hours later, saying her mother was alive. The woman had indeed passed away, her daughter said.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 147 nursing homes in 7 states have at least one resident with COVID-19. The elderly are the most vulnerable population for contracting the virus, health officials say.

The CMS findings found three incidents of "immediate jeopardy," meaning a patient's safety was endangered.

"Specifically, the facility’s failure to rapidly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents, and failure to possess a sufficient backup plan following the absence of the facility’s primary clinician, who fell ill,” the inspectors said.

Earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported it had identified 129 cases of COVID-19 associated with the home — 81 residents, 34 staff members and 14 visitors.