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West Palm Beach nursing home owner to pay $1.75 million in vaccine probe

Some nursing homes and long-term-care facilities say they're struggling to fill shifts as certified nursing assistants opt for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
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Some nursing homes and long-term-care facilities say they're struggling to fill shifts as certified nursing assistants opt for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

The owner of a West Palm Beach nursing home will pay $1.75 million to settle claims that it improperly diverted doses of COVID-19 vaccine to members of its board of directors and donors.

The settlement stemmed from a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program, known as the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, that was designed to vaccinate nursing-home residents and staff members as vaccines first became available in late 2020.

MorseLife, which owns a nursing home and an assisted-living facility, was accused of vaccinating hundreds of people ineligible for the program.

“This specific vaccination program was designed to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals at a critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic was devastating that population,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a prepared statement.

The settlement resolved allegations that MorseLife “invited and facilitated the vaccination of hundreds of ineligible persons at the clinic by characterizing them as ‘staff’ and ‘volunteers,’ many of whom MorseLife targeted for donations,” a Justice Department news release said Thursday.

MorseLife enrolled in the program and scheduled a vaccination clinic Dec. 31, 2020, for residents and staff members of the nursing home, the Joseph L. Morse Health Center.

But the Justice Department news release said 567 of the 976 people vaccinated were ineligible for the program. Prosecutors alleged that donors were listed as “staff” and that MorseLife’s fundraising arm was directed to invite donors and potential donors to the vaccination clinic.

Also, the Justice Department alleged the board’s vice chairman and his brother were allowed to invite close to 300 ineligible people to get vaccinated. In January 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state was investigating the nursing home after national reports about the vaccinations.

The governor’s office and the state auditor general did not immediately respond to questions Friday about the investigation.

New Service of Florida