Life Care Center of Kirkland (LCCK) was the first nursing facility in the United States where the coronavirus pandemic broke out. More than 30 residents at the Seattle nursing facility died of COVID-19 in March 2020. Between March 6 and 16, two federal surveyors conducted an on-site inspection at the facility, with assistance by off-site state surveyors. The state cited numerous federal and state deficiencies and imposed stop placement and conditions on the facility’s license. The facility appealed. State Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Matt Perkins held a hearing June 15-18, 2020. Fourteen witnesses testified, including three witnesses who testified for the state. The facility’s 11 witnesses included two physician expert witnesses; the state did not call any expert witnesses.
In a decision dated September 22, Judge Perkins found:
the Department provided relatively little evidence that the facility actually failed to meet any expected standard of care or failed to follow public health guidelines. In a general sense, the Department seems to have reasoned that, because the outcome was tragic, LCCK must have failed to adequately care for their patients; this idea is based on hindsight.
Decision 35. The ALJ concludes that the facility did not violate state rules on physician services, infection control, general administration, medical director, clinical records, quality assessment and assurance, and quality of care, as alleged by the state, although it violated some requirements. Id. 35-42. He rules that the Department abused its discretion by issuing the stop placement order, but acted within its discretion when it imposed conditions on the facility’s license.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cited deficiencies and imposed $611,325 in civil money penalties. A federal administrative appeal of the deficiencies and penalties is scheduled for April 2021.
October 8, 2020 – T. Edelman