A whistleblower alleges that executives at Minnesota nursing home St. Therese of New Hope directed staff to ignore COVID-19 health regulations, according to a September 15 article in the Star Tribune.
Brooke Peoples, who formerly worked as an administrator at the New Hope, Minnesota facility, alleges in a lawsuit 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, even after more than 60 people who lived at the facility had died from the coronavirus.” She alleges the executives at St. Therese took a “lax approach to the pandemic’s deadly potential” and instructed staff to ignore guidelines from the state’s Department of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Peoples’ attorney Lori Peterson says that one such violation occurred when “a parent of one of St. Therese’s managers” was “admitted to the nursing home from a hospital without following federal quarantine guidelines.” This action, Peterson said, was “potentially exposing residents and staff to infection.” Additionally, Peoples alleges “that a lack of communication between executives at St. Therese delayed the rollout of new infection-control measures.”
According to the lawsuit, Peoples claims that “she was fired less than a month after she warned her superiors that the nursing home was putting patients and staff in danger.” The article states that a chief executive at St. Therese fired Peoples “and then falsely told that her termination was due to a loss of confidence in her leadership ability.” Peoples alleges that her firing is in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act. She also states that the reasons provided for her termination “are contradicted by a series of glowing job performance reviews that she received since she began working at the nursing home in 2017.” The lawsuit contains excerpts of said performance reviews.
With the lawsuit, Peoples “is asking a judge to order St. Therese to reimburse her for the lost pay and other losses related to her termination.”
The Star Tribune article details how nursing homes in Minnesota have been severely affected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since the pandemic began, 4,597 residents of long-term care communities have died from COVID-19 — representing 58% of all virus deaths in Minnesota, state records show.” According to the article, in fall of 2020, “some facilities became so overwhelmed that they reached out to the Minnesota National Guard for emergency staffing assistance.”
The Star Tribune reports that by May of 2020, “Nearly 50 residents of St. Therese died of COVID-19…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.”
St. Therese also has a history of health and safety violations, the article points out. The facility was cited eleven times in a 2018 inspection “for a variety of health and quality-of-life standards.” St. Therese was cited ten times in a February 2020 inspection for more 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,” according to the inspection. However, the article notes that since fall of 2020, St. Therese “has maintained a strong infection-control record,” according to records.