A group of nurses at a Georgia hospital have filed a lawsuit accusing their CEO of what they call a “COVID-19 coverup” involving the improper collection of test samples to reduce positive test results for the virus and downplay its spread.
Nurses employed or formerly employed at Landmark Hospital of Athens, a 42-bed long-term care hospital in northeast Georgia, told Georgia Health News that five of their patients tested positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms. The hospital administrator then ordered retesting of those patients, intentionally collecting samples outside the proper protocols to increase the likelihood of a negative result, the nurses allege in the lawsuit.
The Landmark nurses have filed the suit anonymously as Jane and John Does, calling for a judge to order the hospital’s administrator to stop “continuing to fabricate inaccurate COVID-19 tests results, transferring and discharging patients to outside facilities and admitting patients to Landmark.” The nurses are also seeking damages for being unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 due to the lack of precautions taken.
The nurses claim the hospital’s alleged improper testing practices allowed the facility to accept vulnerable patients admitted from larger hospitals, thus allowing Landmark to keep billing Medicare for services and maintain sufficient patient volume.
“Landmark fabricated negative results so as to continue to be able to discharge patients to make space for new admissions and avoid the negative publicity and oversight that would result if the positive COVID-19 results were disclosed,” the lawsuit, filed June 17, alleges.
Marie Saylor, CEO for Landmark Hospital of Athens, declined to answer GHN’s questions about the allegations by the nurses. In a statement, Saylor pledged to “vigorously investigate allegations and defend our hospital and its staff against misleading and false claims.”
“We have always made the safety and well-being of our patients and staff our top priority, and continue to do so as we manage the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Saylor said in a statement.
As COVID-19 has swept the nation, testing the limits of America’s health care systems, some hospitals have failed to disclose the full extent to which the infectious disease has affected their patients. Hospital administrators from Ohio to Oregon have been reluctant to publicly release COVID-19 infection data, in part due to concerns over how it may impact those facilities’ reputations and bottom lines.
The lawsuit said patients who tested positive were not isolated from others, and that staff were not given personal protective equipment or the resources to give safe treatment for these patients. “Even if these patients could have been properly isolated, Landmark’s central air conditioning has not worked for any of the relevant time period,” the suit added.