The Maryland Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Quality is fining Sagepoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center $10,000 a day for what it describes as “widespread deficiencies,” according to a letter signed by its executive director.
Sagepoint, located in La Plata, has the highest number of deaths of any congregate living facility in Maryland — a group that includes nursing homes, assisted living, group homes and state and local facilities — with 35 deaths due to COVID-19, according to information posted online by the Maryland Department of Health last week. Sagepoint also had 129 COVID-19 positive cases.
The next highest number of deaths in the state is Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mt. Airy, which has had 29 COVID-19 deaths and 126 positive COVID-19 cases, and FutureCare Lochearn in Baltimore, which has had 21 COVID-19 deaths and 231 positive COVID-19 cases.
The MDH congregate living facilities information can be found online at coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/hcf-resources. The information is updated weekly on Wednesday mornings.
According to the letter from the Office of Health Care Quality, addressed to Andrea Dwyer, administrator of Sagepoint, a survey of Sagepoint was conducted between April 21 and May 6 to determine if the facility was in compliance with state regulations.
“This survey found that your facility was not in substantial compliance with the State regulations. In fact, conditions at your facility posed immediate and serious jeopardy to the health and safety of your residents,” stated the letter signed by Dr. Patricia Nay, executive director of OHCQ.
The letter further stated that Sagepoint “failed to implement an effective infection control program” in accordance with standards and guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MDH during a pandemic. The deficiencies listed include failure to obtain critical lab results timely, failure to use appropriate hand hygiene, failure to use personal protective equipment and failure to quarantine residents known or suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus.
“Based upon the deficiencies cited at your facility, OHCQ will be imposing a daily Civil Money Penalty (CMP) of $10,000 per day for widespread deficiencies, beginning March 30, 2020, and continuing until the facility regains substantial compliance with state regulations,” Nay stated in the letter.
A spokesperson for Sagepoint could not immediately be reached for comment, but in a letter dated Sunday and posted to the nursing home’s website, Sagepoint stated that the deficiencies reported in the OHCQ letter were “factually incorrect.”
The letter also says that OHCQ ignored its requests for guidance on issues as the virus broke out.
“We actively sought information in addressing issues. What we received was instead criticism, blame and action by an agency only focused on covering themselves and making an example of a non-profit nursing home that lacks the financial and political resources to adequately face off with state and federal agencies,” the Sagepoint letter stated.
“Proactively we educated officials about the problems of asymptomatic spread and lobbied for the need for universal testing in nursing homes,” the letter continued. “We warned of the severe lack of testing capabilities and badly-broken supply chains preventing acquisition of adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] for staff protection. Additionally, we had concerns that CMS [Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] mandated that all nursing homes must accept COVID-19 positive patients as discharges from the hospital … that mandate coupled with ineffective and ever-changing infection protection guidance left all nursing homes completely vulnerable to the spread of this virus in a vulnerable elderly population.”
The letter went on to state that the nursing home was an early adopter of universal testing and that the nursing home implemented health guidance and mandates from state and federal agencies, in some instances before they were required.
The letter stated that all nursing homes are disadvantaged due to having to accept COVID-19 releases from hospitals, limited work space, servicing the most vulnerable and having to fight against a new and highly contagious disease.
“This outbreak did not happen because of anything we did, but because the virus is highly contagious and presents with and without specific symptoms. We believe the actions we took saved lives,” the letter stated.