A nightmarish scenario unfolded with the announcement that the coronavirus had struck a nursing home leaving seven dead and eight others ill exposed the vulnerability of the nation’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and the 2.5 million Americans who live in them. The CDC estimates that 380,000 people die annually from infections at these long-term care facilities, and 1 million people get serious infections in them. Research shows these homes are poorly staffed and suffer from lax infection-control practices. Public health experts fear these facilities could spread coronavirus which kills 15 percent of people over 80 years old and 8 percent of people in their 70s.
Bridget Parkhill and Carmen Gray, whose mother is a resident of Life Care Center of Kirkland, said they were complaining even before the outbreak about the kinds of conditions that can give rise to infection.
Ms. Gray said she frequently complained about low staffing, and Ms. Parkhill complained about poor hand-washing and other hygiene by the staff. Ms. Parkhill works as an infection prevention manager at a nearby hospital and described Life Care’s infection prevention as “horrible.”
But she said she’s learned in her 10 years working in the field that the situation is not isolated. “They’re all horrible,” she said. “They aren’t following protocol and they need to have twice as much staff as they have.”
Life Care Center of Kirkland is part of a chain of more than 200 nursing facilities called Life Care Centers of America, which is based in Tennessee. The Life Care Center of Kirkland has been cited previously for infection control violations by the State of Washington, and the federal government.