Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal Published 6:04 a.m. ET June 9, 2021
More than 1,100 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Kentucky’s nursing homes, and at least 150 have died. Wochit
A former nurse at a Louisville nursing home claims in a lawsuit she was fired last year after raising repeated concerns about infection control and lack of personal protective equipment, such as masks, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donna Frank, a registered nurse, alleges in the lawsuit filed June 3 she was wrongly fired by Signature Healthcare at Jefferson Place Rehab and Wellness Center after about six months on the job.
Frank was fired Sept. 9, 2020, the day after an investigator from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office of Inspector General showed up to investigate conditions at Signature-Jefferson Place, following a complaint from Frank.
The lawsuit alleges Frank was fired in retaliation for that and other complaints related to COVID-19 and infection control procedures at Signature-Jefferson Place.
“The more she complained, the more of a headache she became and they just got rid of her,” said Frank’s lawyer, Charles W. Miller.
A spokeswoman for Signature Healthcare, Ann Bowdan Wilder, said in an email that the company doesn’t comment on pending legal matters but added “there are two sides to every story and judgement or opinion should be withheld until allegations are proven and/or disproven in the legal process.”
The state investigation determined the facility was not in compliance with infection control requirements in that neither a receptionist nor a worker at a screening table at the entrance were wearing masks as required by state and federal regulations, according to a copy of the report attached to the lawsuit.
Signature-Jefferson Place responded that no residents were affected and that the problem had been corrected.
Signature Healthcare, the state’s largest long-term care company, operates 41 nursing homes in Kentucky, part of a chain of 110 facilities in 10 states. It moved its headquarters to Louisville in 2007.
In 2020, 34 residents and 28 staff members at Signature-Jefferson Place tested positive for COVID-19, with deaths of 10 residents related to the virus, according to a report on the state website KYCOVID19.ky.gov. This year, eight residents and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, with three residents dying.
COVID-19 cases spiked at nursing homes statewide during the early months of the pandemic, initially accounting for about two-thirds of all deaths related to the virus. But COVID-19 cases in long term care settings have dropped significantly since the first vaccinations began in December, and nursing homes now account for about one-third of the state’s more than 7,100 deaths from the coronavirus.
Miller said his client is a well-qualified, experienced nurse whose only goal was to try to bring what she thought were problems to the attention of management.
“You have an employee trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Frank now works for the health cabinet’s inspector general, which oversees nursing homes, he said.
Her lawsuit asks for lost wages and benefits, punitive damages and her lawyer’s costs.
Claims made in a lawsuit present only one side of the case.
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