Reckless Endangerment?

The Seattle Times reported an incredible story of reckless endangerment. Dr. Nishita Bhumkar continued to see elderly and vulnerable patients despite having Covid symptoms. She then tested positive for COVID-19. Bhumkar worked at other facilities where patients had tested positive. A lawsuit alleges that Dr. Bhumkar intentionally misled people about her symptoms. Her boss might have told her to ignore safety rules. Dr. Swenson owns Swenson Health Care which is a service that places doctors in nursing homes.

Bhumkar came down with COVID-19 symptoms on March 10. She let Swenson know on March 11. Swenson issued a memo that employees with such symptoms “will not be permitted to return to work until cleared by their physician in coordination with health department and/or CDC officials as appropriate.” Yet, according to the lawsuit, he told Bhumkar not to get tested or treated. Instead he instructed her to keep working rather than quarantining herself.

On March 13, she went to the Renton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center nursing home to see patients. In time, at least 52 residents and 47 staff members became infected with the coronavirus at Renton. Nine people have died. According to the lawsuit, Bhumkar took a COVID-19 test March 16 and got positive results back eight days later. Again, Swenson told her to keep working, the complaint said. One day after getting her results, Bhumkar went to the Renton nursing home and answered “no” to the questions on the checklist.

The thing that is really shocking is the doctor knew she was infected and went on to sign a form that said she wasn’t,” said Dan Weiskopf, a lawyer representing the facility.

Bhumkar had an obligation to tell the facility that she had tested positive and experienced symptoms. Most of the residents Bhumkar examined contracted the virus, as did their roommates and a nurse who made the rounds with the doctor. The exact timeline and details of Bhumkar’s health is crucial to the case.

The doctors are arguing that the case should go to arbitration because of a clause in the contract with Swenson, who served as the facility’s medical director. Renton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is fighting that, saying this is a case of public interest that should be heard by the public. If this is not reckless endangerment, I am not sure I know what reckless endangerment can be under these circumstances.