A “60 Minutes” news report that aired Sunday night accused the federal government of failing to come to the aid of the Kirkland, WA, nursing home that was the site of the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak.
Instead of helping the Life Care Centers of America facility that was dealing with large numbers of sick staff and residents, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first went to the facility to investigate, commanding more than 400 hours of precious staff time from caregivers, according to the news program.
“It was infuriating. They didn’t truly understand COVID or what the facility was going through or what we had been through,” Nancy Butner, vice president of Life Care Centers of America, told reporter Bill Whitaker.
CMS ultimately fined Life Care more than $600,000. After appealing both federal and state judgments, in September the state sided with Life Care, arguing that the facility did not commit negligence. The federal case is still pending.
“I think they wanted a scapegoat for what happened at Life Care Center Kirkland,” Butner said on Sunday’s show. “I think that they wanted someone to blame for COVID-19 spreading. We had nothing to do with the spread across the nation.”
CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who “60 Minutes” said declined requests for an on-camera interview, later defended her actions and those of her agency in several tweets Sunday night.
Among them: “Contrary to Life Care’s VP & 60 Minutes, CMS did not stand alone in inspecting the Kirkland facility. WA state inspectors joined CMS every step of the way. We’re thankful WA state’s health officials worked with us to hold Life Care accountable.”