71 F
Wichita
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Scathing Federal Inspection Pulls Curtain Back On One Of Kansas’ Deadliest Coronavirus Outbreaks

Weeks into the outbreak at Riverbend in Kansas City, Kansas, inspectors still saw health workers caring for COVID-19 patients without proper protective gear

Sports Headlines

Second-place Sporting KC to host high-flying Orlando City SC at 6:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday

(Sept. 22, 2020) -- Children's Mercy Park will host a compelling cross-conference battle on Wednesday when Sporting Kansas City (6-4-2, 20 points) and Orlando...

Kpreps.com Week 4 High School Football Rankings

Week Three action saw nine teams ranked in the Kpreps poll lose, although several of those fell to ranked opponents. Find out...

Chiefs Defeat Chargers, 23-20, in Overtime Thriller

Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, 23-20, in a thriller on Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium...

Johnny Russell scores twice in Sporting KC’s 3-2 loss to FC Dallas

Sporting Kansas City (6-4-2, 20 points) dropped a 3-2 decision against FC Dallas (5-2-4, 19 points) on Saturday afternoon at Children's Mercy...

KNDY Area High School Football Scores – 9/18/2020

North Central Kansas League Beloit 36, Concordia 7 Chapman 46, Abilene 0 Rock Creek 36, Marysville 12 Wamego 34, Clay Center 21 Twin Valley League 8-Man Axtell 64, Rock Hills...
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications.After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations.In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen – Kansas News Service

At a Kansas City, Kansas, nursing home, employees tested positive for COVID-19 and went back to work the next day.

Health workers cared for residents who had tested negative for the virus in the same gowns and masks they’d worn into the rooms of those who’d tested positive.

“I wash my hands,” a nurse told inspectors. “But I wear the same PPE.”

Now the federal inspection that documented those and other risky practices could play into 12 lawsuits brought by families against Riverbend Post-Acute Rehabilitation over the deaths of residents at the nursing home.

Dozens died of the coronavirus at Riverbend — one of the state’s deadliest nursing home outbreaks, a federal database shows.

“This report just confirms the allegations we’ve already made,” said Rachel Stahle, a lawyer representing families in seven of the lawsuits. “It certainly bolsters our position.”

What the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found at Riverbend, she said, makes clear the home wasn’t taking proper steps to control infections.

“The report is not surprising,” Stahle said. “Nonetheless, it’s still quite shocking. You have numerous employees who (were) working with symptoms.”

Riverbend argued a federal law shields it against the lawsuits, but a federal judge rejected the argument two weeks ago. That cleared the way for the families to proceed in state court in Wyandotte County.

Stahle expects discovery — an evidence-gathering stage — will start within a month.

Riverbend didn’t respond to a request for comment on what appears in the inspection report.

Federal inspection

After scouring Riverbend’s daily logs and interviewing its staff, inspectors concluded the home didn’t take vital steps to protect residents. That made it likely they would get exposed to the coronavirus, “resulting in serious harm or death.”

The inspections took place in late April and early May, when the home had about 90 residents. Inspectors found employees weren’t following key guidelines to curb the virus’ spread — like segregating residents who’d tested positive for the virus from those who hadn’t.

Inspectors saw health workers caring for COVID-19 patients without proper protection. Some were missing gloves. Others lacked eye protection or a mask.

Residents were in “immediate jeopardy,” the inspectors wrote.

That was after the virus made it into Riverbend sometime around late March, and ravaged the place. Already, 32 deaths at the facility had been attributed to it. The home’s management figured the real toll was higher because not everyone who had died had been tested.

Tallies that Riverbend later reported to the federal government say 37 residents died of COVID-19, and more than 60 residents and 30 staff tested positive.

One nurse told inspectors she’d wear a single mask for five days at a time. An aide said the building’s director of nursing told her she didn’t need one to work with coronavirus patients.

That aide ended up contracting the virus. CDC guidelines say nursing home staff should don an N95 mask when caring for anyone suspected of having the virus.

No separation

The federal team also saw COVID-19 patients leaving their rooms and eating in the same common areas that residents who had tested negative were allowed to use.

The home’s managers told inspectors that 21 residents had still tested negative as of early April. But because a large number had tested positive, it was pointless to keep them apart or have staff don fresh protective gear between rooms. They assumed everyone was actually infected.

One resident who was clearly ill was kept with a roommate who seemed healthy. Both ultimately tested positive.

CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already made clear by mid-March that nursing homes had to screen staff for a range of symptoms and tell anyone who was sick to quarantine at home.

Yet day after day, some employees walked into the building without anyone documenting their temperature or other symptoms. Others reported having coughs, shortness of breath or sore throats, then worked anyway.

A nurse and a medication aide both continued working in the days after they got tested and learned they were positive.

The lawsuits against Riverbend accuse it of negligence. They were filed in state court, but Riverbend argued a federal court needed to handle the matter because the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act shielded them against liability.

The PREP Act protects health care providers during health emergencies like the current pandemic against lawsuits over administering medications and other measures meant to combat a disease.

But Riverbend stands accused of failing to take measures, a federal judge found, so the PREP Act doesn’t apply and the cases will move forward in state court.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Kansas Headlines

Death Investigation Underway In Allen County

ALLEN COUNTY– The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), the Iola Police Department, and the Allen County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a death that occurred...

Kansas Nursing Homes Still Waiting On Coronavirus Testing Gear From The Feds, And Can’t Afford Labs

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service Phillips County Retirement Center got a coronavirus testing machine this month from the U.S. Department of Health and...

Would Your Child’s Safety Seat Pass Inspection?

WICHITA, Kan. – Sept. 21, 2020 – Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly, or...

Farm Bureau Insight: Taking Pride in Agriculture

By Glenn Brunkow, Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher We are clearly in the middle of fall and that means harvest. Harvest is one of the...

Governor Laura Kelly Orders Flags at Half-staff in Honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In accordance with Executive Order 20-30, Governor Laura Kelly has ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff throughout the state of...

Kansas News Service

Kansas Nursing Homes Still Waiting On Coronavirus Testing Gear From The Feds, And Can’t Afford Labs

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service Phillips County Retirement Center got a coronavirus testing machine this month from the U.S. Department of Health and...

Scathing Federal Inspection Pulls Curtain Back On One Of Kansas’ Deadliest Coronavirus Outbreaks

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service At a Kansas City, Kansas, nursing home, employees tested positive for COVID-19 and went back to work the...

Federal Prosecutors Defy Court Order In Cases Over Attorney-Client Recordings In Leavenworth

By Dan Margolies - Kansas News Service The U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kansas, says it will no longer cooperate with cases brought by...

Emails Show Kansas Agencies Helped Keep Meatpacking Plants Open Despite Concerns About Coronavirus

By Corinne Boyer - Kansas News Service GARDEN CITY, Kansas — In mid-May, Finney County’s top public health physician sent an email to state health...

Kansas Teachers Could Owe Their Schools Thousands If They Quit Over Coronavirus Concerns

By Stephan Bisaha - Kansas News Service WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas teachers that don’t feel safe going back to crowded hallways as schools reopen could take...