A 9Wants to Know investigation found dozens of Colorado nursing homes were fined for COVID-19 infractions but later received federal bonus payments.
DENVER — A 9Wants to Know investigation into 117 Colorado nursing homes that were fined for infractions but were also given federal bonuses was published on Tuesday.
You can read the full investigation at the link below, but here are nine takeaways:
1. Eight residents died during a COVID-19 outbreak at Sierra Vista Health Care Center in Loveland. At least 2,516 residents have died in health care facility outbreaks like nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Colorado, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data downloaded in March 2021.
2. At Sierra Vista, three former nurses told 9Wants to Know that the facility did not follow the proper protocol to contain the spread of the virus, such as nurses not regularly wearing masks. Inspectors found staff members had their masks below their noses and did not wash their hands when regulators went into the nursing home in August 2020. In December 2020, inspectors noticed a nurse practitioner was not wearing a N95 mask. The N95 is better rated to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Annaliese Impink, spokeswoman for Sierra Vista Health Care, declined an on-camera interview but wrote in an email that “the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents is our number one priority” and the “facility took the findings of the survey team seriously.”
3. A total of 132 facilities were fined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), according to CMS data analyzed by 9Wants to Know.
4. Of the 132 facilities in Colorado that were fined for poor infection control practices and problems related to the pandemic (i.e. not wearing masks, washing hands or notifying families or the federal government about an outbreak), 122 also received payments from the Health Resources & Services Administration, a different agency in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for having fewer COVID-19 cases compared to the community it operated in and fewer deaths than a national benchmark.
5. From January 2020 to April 2021, CMS fined Sierra Vista $39,484.25 for its transgressions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid the facility’s operators $183,840.89.
6. A total of 107 facilities were paid more by the CDC than they were fined by CMS. Colorado State Veterans Home at Fitzsimons had the largest gap between fines and payments. The facility was paid $394,899.40 more than it was fined.
7. A total of 117 facilities were fined, paid and had an outbreak, and 1,103 people died from COVID-19 in facilities where all three things happened.
8. The HHS, which houses both CMS and CDC, refused 9Wants to Know’s request for an interview to address questions for this story.
9. A total of 22 facilities were paid the same month that they were fined. On two occasions throughout 2020, two facilities were fined and paid the same month. Life Care Center Of Stonegate and Continuing Care At Wind Crest were fined/paid in October 2020 and December 2020.
Full statement from Annaliese Impink, spokesperson for Sierra Vista Health Care:
“The health, safety and wellbeing of our residents is our number one priority. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked closely with local, state and federal health authorities to follow their guidance, and have taken significant steps to protect all our residents and staff, including providing appropriate PPE, educating staff on infection control procedures, and other precautions and protocols outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Sierra Vista Healthcare Center received two low-level infection control deficiencies as a result of the August 25th and December 21st surveys. The center took the findings of the survey team seriously and immediately put corrective actions in place to address the specifics of the surveyor’s findings. The center was found to be in compliance once corrective plans were implemented and the center worked diligently with staff to continue to educate them regarding the importance of hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment and other infection control practices.
It has been a difficult period for our residents and staff, but I am happy to say that today all of our residents are COVID-free . We thank our staff for all their hard work to keep our resident as safe as possible during this terrible pandemic.”
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If you have information or had a loved one die in a nursing home on the list, text us a tip to 303.871.1491. You can also reach the reporters on this story directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). Zack Newman can also be reached by phone or Signal: 303-548-9044.
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