Twice in 2019 the United States faced deadly outbreaks of Candida Auris, one in New York and one in Southern California. With small clusters in other states, New Jersey largely dodged a bullet last year. This year, it appears there is at least one case of this deadly fungus in New Jersey, specifically at the Kindred Hospital New Jersey – Wayne. Unfortunately, in our experience where there is one case there are usually many more.
Candida Auris is a difficult to treat fungus that kills as many as 50% of the people it infects. Like coronavirus, it is particularly deadly when the outbreak occurs in a nursing home. Hospitals often fair a bit better but from our research, Kindred Wayne functions more like a nursing home. According to Kindred’s website, their facility in Wayne is a “38-bed transitional care hospital offering the same in depth care you would receive in a traditional hospital, but for an extended recovery period.”
Over the past couple years several other Kindred facilities have been the scene of Candida Auris infections. Included on the list:
- Kindred Hospital -Westminster
- Kindred Hospital – Santa Ana
- Kindred Hospital - Brea
- Kindred Hospital Brea Subacute Unit
- Kindred Hospital New Jersey - Wayne
Recently there has been a resurgence of these cases. The L.A. Times warned on July 20th of “multiple reports of the fungus” in Los Angeles County healthcare facilities as well as a resurgence in Orange County.
Unlike COVID-19 which is primarily transmitted by droplets, Candida Auris appears to be transmitted by contact. Gowns and masks may be in short supply but they aren’t the most effective way of stopping the transmission of the fungus. Good hygiene and sanitation practices (cleanliness) are the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the infection. Also important is proper staffing.
In the cases we have seen and investigated, it appears that the infection spread when staff went from patient to patient without changing gloves (physical contact). We are also aware of one case where a patient’s breathing mask fell on the floor. Rather than replace it, an aide simply picked it up off the dirty floor and put it back on the patient’s face.
CDC Says Candida Auris is Deadly
While the public remains concerned about coronavirus (and rightly so), the real killer is an outbreak of Candida Auris.
Currently healthcare experts are divided on just how dangerous COVID-19 really is. The death toll is probably around 2% with some saying its much lower. The CDC says that a Candida Auris infection once inside the body has a death rate around 1 in 3! That is 33%. And it is especially deadly for those with compromised immune systems meaning those that reside in nursing homes.
Deadly fungal infections in hospitals are thankfully rare. Unlike nursing homes, hospitals have better staffing, better diagnostic tools to quickly identify an outbreak and better infectious disease control practices. (Just look how poorly many nursing homes performed in keeping coronavirus at bay. Some nursing homes were more like death camps.)
The Kindred facility in Wayne bills itself as a hospital but it is really more akin to a nursing home.
What is Candida Auris and Should I Worry?
Candida Auris is a fungus. Like the COVID-19, it is a relatively. The first case was discovered in 2009. It wasn’t found in the United States until 2015. Now there have been over 1,100 cases in the United States.
According to the CDC, Candida Auris:
- It is often multidrug-resistant, meaning that it is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs commonly used to treat Candida infections.
- It is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods, and it can be misidentified in labs without specific technology. Misidentification may lead to inappropriate management.
- It has caused outbreaks in healthcare settings. For this reason, it is important to quickly identify C. auris in a hospitalized patient so that healthcare facilities can take special precautions to stop its spread.
Why Does Kindred Have So Many Cases of Candida Auris?
Kindred patients have suffered from a disproportionately high number of C. auris infections. Why? We think because of poor staffing, low staffing and substandard quality control measures.
We have been investigating Kindred for several years. The company has an atrocious record for fraud and Medicare violations. They have paid multimillion settlements for not compensating their staff properly. And we think they are also understaffed. That makes for a perfect storm, one in which patients are neglected.
In 2016, Kindred Healthcare paid a whopping $125,000,000.00 fine for Medicare fraud. The government said the company’s nursing homes were billing for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable, necessary and skilled, or that never occurred.
In 2001, they paid another fine which exceeded $100 million. Prosecutors once again claimed that Kindred’s facilities had inadequate staffing and didn’t properly care for patients’ bedsores or dietary needs. That fine was $104.5 million. Lest you think that was a long time ago, the company paid large fines in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2019… Clearly, they haven’t learned their lesson.
Are Nursing Homes Liable if a Loved One Contracts Candida Auris
The short answer is maybe. In normal times it would be much easier to sue. But New Jersey joined New York and a handful of other states in making it difficult to sue nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
New Jersey’s governor signed an executive order that gave healthcare facilities immunity,
“from civil liability for any damages alleged to be have been sustained as a result of an act or omission undertaken in good faith in the course of providing services in support of the State’s COVID-19 response by one or more of its agents, officers, servants, representatives, or volunteers, if, and to the extent, such agent, officer employee, servant, representative or volunteer is immune from liability, whether or not such immunity is otherwise available under current law.”
If that wasn’t bad enough. The New Jersey legislature made sure the door was shut and nailed tight. The governor’s executive order was signed on April 2nd. The New Jersey State Assembly passed their immunity bill days later that month.
Although Candida Auris is certainly not COVID-19, the immunity legislation gives a hall pass to New Jersey and New York nursing homes for just about anything they do wrong short of intentional misconduct or gross negliegence. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic were to end tomorrow, it is unlikely the state will be quick to repeal its state of emergency.
Fortunately, victims of poor care and their families in most states can still sue for Candida auris, coronavirus deaths, bed sores and other problems. It is also possible to sue in New Jersey and New York although in the latter two states, the burden of proof is much higher.
If a loved one died because of Candida Auris at Kindred – Wayne or other New York or New Jersey nursing homes in March 2020 or earlier, you probably have a case. If the death happened after that date, the case becomes much more dependent on the strength of the facts and in what state your loved one was residing.
Nursing Homes Most At Risk
We can’t change the laws in those states where nursing homes have been granted immunity from civil suits. We can tell you what to look for, however.
The nursing homes most at risk for an outbreak are those that fail to meet minimum staffing guidelines, especially on weekends and holidays. One overworked CNA who has too many patients on a Saturday night can quickly spread the infection. It takes time to properly sanitize and re-glove between patients.Another problem is nursing homes with poor training and poor sanitation practices.
If infections are left untreated in a nursing home, they can quickly lead to death. Even minor infections can be life threatening in elderly individuals. That’s because the elderly often have a compromised immune system.
No one goes to a nursing home expecting to get COVID-19, sepsis, bedsores or c. auris. Unfortunately, because of poor staffing and hygiene, such serious infections are too common.
If we are able to bring a case, the patient or her family may be entitled to monetary compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, future care expenses and diminished life expectancy.
Our network of experienced nursing home neglect attorneys understands the special needs of elderly and disabled clients. We know how to aggressively prosecute infection claims against nursing homes.
A Candida Auris case is not a typical nursing home case like a bedsore or fall. These cases require medical experts and experts in infection control practices. Unlike some personal injury lawyers that like to quickly settle (“quantity over quality”), our lawyers are all handpicked for their skill, experience, and willingness to take cases to trial. We have the financial depth to hire the right expert witnesses when the wrongdoers deny responsibility or refuse to settle on favorable terms.
If you or a loved one has contracted candida auris in a nursing home and believe it is because of poor care or inadequate staffing, let us know. Visit our Candida Auris Nursing Home information page for more information. If you are ready to proceed, contact us and we will connect you with an experienced lawyer. If we cannot assist you, someone in our network can. Our consultations are always free, confidential and without obligation. Contact us by email [hidden email], by phone 833.201.1555 or contact us online.
Looking for Kindred Employee Whistleblowers
Our other practice is representing healthcare workers who are willing to step forward and blow the whistle on fraud and poor patient care. As noted earlier, Kindred Healthcare has been the subject of at least 8 Medicare and Medicaid fraud complaints. The fines are well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Under a Civil War era law, those with inside information about fraud involving federal or state healthcare programs are eligible for cash rewards.
The federal False Claims Act allows rewards of between 15% and 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoers. If Kindred gets caught again (or should we say, “when” Kindred gets caught again), we won’t be surprised if the next fine is also in excess of $100 million. That means a whistleblower reward of $15 million or more.
For more information, visit our Medicare fraud whistleblower reward page. You can contact us online by email [hidden email], by phone 833.201.1555 or contact us online. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential.