All three facilities were faulted for failing to properly isolate potentially contagious residents, including new admissions. At Potomac Valley, one patient died after a nurse allegedly failed to provide basic life support, inspectors said.
At least 78 residents from the three facilities have died since the spring of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to state data, and more than 270 have been infected with the virus.
The facilities could have Medicaid and Medicare funding for new admissions suspended for a period of time and be barred for two years from operating training programs for nurse aides, inspectors warned.
The penalties, included in inspection reports and letters released to The Post by the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality, are among the most serious actions taken against nursing homes in Maryland since the start of the pandemic.
“The regulatory and quality of care violations outlined and alleged in these state documents are gravely serious, and extremely concerning,” said Joseph DeMattos, president and chief executive of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland. “Some of the violations are related to covid-19 and some are not. And while these centers have the right to appeal, we all have a sacred obligation to work with federal, state leaders and others to ensure the quality and safe care of our loved ones.”
Family members of residents who contracted the virus at these facilities said the inspection reports confirmed what they had suspected for months.
“Downright negligence — they did not protect their patients,” said Mike Sheppard, whose mother, Lorraine Sheppard, died of covid-19 three weeks after moving into Potomac Valley in April.
Lisa Jacobi, whose father-in-law, Robert Jacobi, also died soon after being admitted to Potomac Valley, said the $120,000 fine “feels like nothing, like a slap on the wrist and nothing else.”
Like other states across the country, Maryland struggled for months to contain the spread of the virus in long-term-care settings. As of this week, nearly 15,000 staff and residents at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two thousand have died of covid-19, which is more than half of the state’s death toll from the pandemic.
Maryland was sharply rebuked by the Trump administration earlier this month for lagging behind other states in nursing home inspections.
In May, Sagepoint Senior Living in La Plata, the site of one of the state’s worst nursing home outbreaks, was fined $320,000, although the company has said that it is contesting the punishment.
In June, more than two dozen other nursing homes were ordered to pay several hundred dollars each for failing to report covid-19 information to the state. But fines exceeding $100,000 have been rare in the state — and in neighboring Virginia and D.C.
As of Aug. 14, all 226 nursing homes in Maryland had been inspected, officials said. Of 100 facilities surveyed from June 21 to Aug. 16, 75 were in compliance with state and federal requirements and 22 were cited with deficiencies but not fined.
The remaining three were Potomac Valley, Collingswood and Kensington Healthcare.
At Potomac Valley, a 175-bed facility owned by Vita Healthcare Group, staff members failed to properly isolate residents who had contracted the coronavirus and sometimes took days to inform family members that their loved ones had tested positive, surveyors said.
During an incident in mid-June, attending nurses at the facility “failed to perform basic life support” for a resident who died, inspectors said. The registered nurse realized the resident had become unresponsive during an overnight shift, the report said. The nurse was “hollering” out for help but received no assistance. Later, inspectors found no documented evidence that the nurse performed CPR for the resident or called 911 for support.
Potomac Valley employees told The Post in May and July that the facility has been severely short-staffed, affecting their ability to care for patients. Even as the virus took hold and spread to more than half of the people who lived at the facility, Potomac Valley continued to admit new patients. At least five newly admitted patients contracted the virus there, and three of them died, The Post reported last month.
Administrator Kathryn Heflin said in a statement Wednesday that the safety of residents has been the facility’s top priority and that all problems cited by the health department “were immediately rectified. In addition, we have taken additional measures to reinforce the safety education regularly provided.”
Collingswood, where more than 40 residents have died of covid-19, also continued to take in new residents from March to June, The Post reported. As late as June, the state report said, administrators did not have an effective plan to adequately isolate new residents or symptomatic residents, even though federal guidance on the importance of doing so had been released three months prior.
From April to June, at least eight new residents were admitted “in a manner inconsistent with published guidance,” causing some to be exposed to and contract the coronavirus, inspectors found.
Collingswood administrator Jenelle Onyenemezu said the facility “is committed to the effective care of our residents as well as compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements.” She added that the company is filing an appeal against the state’s findings.
At Kensington Healthcare, which has 140 beds, surveyors found that at least seven residents were at risk of contracting the coronavirus because of a failure to properly separate patients who had tested positive from those who were negative or whose status was unknown. Surveyors also reported that the facility failed to isolate new admissions whose covid-19 status was not known.
Fred Stratmann, a spokesman for Kensington’s parent company, CommuniCare, said the facility is considering whether to pay or contest the fine. He acknowledged that employees struggled to manage a crisis that rapidly escalated after 50 residents tested positive within a matter of days.