Covid Whistleblower

Ignore Safety

The Star-Tribune reported on the case of a Covid whistleblower. Brooke Peoples was the administrator at St. Therese of New Hope nursing home. The facility was the site of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak last year. Peoples said the facility ordered its caregivers to violate safety regulations to prevent the spread of the epidemic in long-term care facilities. She filed a whistleblower lawsuit.

The suit alleges that top executives at the 258-bed nursing home told employees “to ignore and violate” state and federal guidelines governing visitations and the quarantine of newly admitted patients. 60 residents died from the coronavirus.

In her lawsuit, Peoples alleges that St. Therese executives took a “lax approach to the pandemic’s deadly potential” and directed her and other staff to ignore infection-control guidelines from the state Department of Health as well as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Executives fired Peoples less than a month after she warned her superiors that the nursing home was putting patients and staff in danger.

“A toxic, hostile work environment … caused an interruption in communications and teamwork when it was needed most: during a pandemic,” the lawsuit says.

Peoples also alleges that a lack of communication between executives at St. Therese delayed the rollout of new infection-control measures.

As of last week, the nursing home had recorded 313 infections and 84 resident deaths from the virus — the second deadliest toll among long-term care facilities in the state, according to a state Health Department database.

In a 2018 inspection, the nursing home violated 11 health and quality-of-life standards. These included failing to properly empty and remove urinary drainage bags; failure to investigate bruising and alleviate pressure sores; and failure to provide routine personal grooming for residents.

In a February 2020 health inspection, another 10 violations — including failing to follow proper hand-washing, glove usage and other hygiene protocols, which had the potential to affect more than 50 residents, staff and visitors.

The home was also cited for not ensuring that necessary health information was sent to a hospital where a patient had been transferred after falling and striking her head.

Incredibly, St. Therese has the highest overall rating (five stars) from the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare system, which considers inspections, staffing levels and quality of resident care.