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Doctor brought COVID-19 into Washington nursing home, suit says

Nick Wicker  

Nick Wicker  

(June 4, 2020) - A skilled-nursing facility in Washington state says a doctor from a local medical practice knowingly introduced the novel coronavirus to residents of the nursing home, leading to preventable infections and deaths among its vulnerable population.

Renton Healthcare Rehabilitation Center LLC v. Swenson et al., No. 20-2-09382-3 KNT, complaint filed, 2020 WL 2787606 (Wash. Super. Ct., King Cty. May 28, 2020).
Renton Healthcare Rehabilitation Center LLC, which operates nursing homes in the Seattle area, filed the suit May 28 in the King County Superior Court, claiming Swenson Healthcare PLLC, owner Dr. Darren Swenson and employee Dr. Nishita Bhumkar are liable for continuing their site visits and treatment despite risks to patients.
As a result of the defendants’ negligent behavior, at least 52 nursing home residents and 47 employees have tested positive with COVID-19, and seven residents have died from the virus, the complaint says.
U.S. Post Acute Care LLC is also named as a defendant for its role in providing administrative services to Swenson Healthcare.

COVID-19 infection risks

According to the complaint, King County and the Seattle area faced some of the earliest effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Renton Healthcare claims its “post-acute care” patients, who had recently undergone severe surgery or suffered injuries and illnesses, were particularly susceptible to the deadly virus.
The company adopted multiple policies to counter the outbreak, including a requirement that essential visitors testify in writing upon entering the building that they were not sick with the virus and had not been exposed to it, the complaint says.
Nonessential visitors were barred from entering the company’s Renton, Washington, facility after March 10, and those who did visit were told to monitor themselves for symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days if any developed, and report updates to Renton Healthcare.
Swenson Healthcare and Post Acute Care claimed in marketing materials that they were “experts” in caring for post-acute patients like those at Renton, the suit says.
Swenson told his employees March 2 that they had “the greatest of responsibilities in the area of infection control and patient safety,” according to the complaint.
At the time, Bhumkar had allegedly worked for Swenson Healthcare for almost a year and had more than 12 years’ experience as a hospitalist and internal medicine specialist.
The suit alleges Bhumkar suspected she may have been infected with the coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms beginning March 10, but continued to see multiple patients at the Renton facility. Bhumkar was tested for COVID-19 March 16 and received a positive result on March 24, the suit says.
Renton Healthcare alleges Bhumkar failed to self-quarantine, did not tell the nursing home or her patients that she had been exposed to COVID-19, and upon entering the facility March 13, indicated she did not have symptoms or concerns about infection.
Bhumkar’s insistence on treating patients despite suspecting she was positive for COVID-19 directly contradicted the facility’s preventative policy, the suit says.
The suit says the defendants are liable for negligence, breach of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, Wash. Rev. Code § 19.86, negligent misrepresentation and negligent supervision.
Renton Healthcare is represented by Daniel M. Weiskopf of McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren in Seattle.

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