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Articles Posted in California Department of Public Health

The California Department of Public Health issued its most severe citation to a California nursing home following the death of a 97-year-old resident. According to reports, the Gramercy Court nursing home patient fell out of her bed and onto the floor while a nursing assistant had her back to the patient. The resident suffered a spinal injury and died a short time later.

State investigators said the fall could have been prevented if the bed rail, which was ordered, had been in place. As a result, a AA citation was issued against the facility, and a $90,000 fine assessed. The maximum fine allowable under California law is $100,000.

To read the entire AA citation, CLICK HERE (.pdf).

A beleaguered nursing home operated by the Motion Picture and Television Fund was fined by the California Department of Public Health for failing to prevent a serious injury to an 87-year-old resident. The resident was injured in May of last year when, while transferring the resident with a mechanized lift, the resident slid out of the lift and fell to the floor, causing a wound so large that it revealed her cranium.

After its investigation, the DPH concluded that the nursing home failed to follow a plan of care that was designed to prevent the resident, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, from falling. The home was issued an “A” citation and a fine of $7,500.

The citation comes at a time when the nursing home operators, a charity, have decided to close down the home. Currently the home has only 54 remaining long term care residents, which remains open only after protests from current residents and their families.

A Los Angeles area nursing home received the state’s most severe penalty (short of losing its license) yesterday when it received a $100,000 fine for neglectful care that resulted in the death of a resident. The nursing facility also received an AA citation.

The case involved the misplacement of a feeding tube, which is a type of case the Walton Law Firm has handled on several prior occasions. According to reports, the 84-year-old resident was admitted to the nursing home in early 2008 to rehabilitate a hip fracture. He was noted as having no problems chewing or swallowing. Because of a weight loss, his physician ordered nasogastric tube feedings.

When staff at the nursing home inserted the tube through the man’s nose, it placed it in the man’s lung, not his stomach. When feedings began, the lungs filled with feeding material, and the man became sickened immediately. Three days later he was dead from aspiration pneumonia.

An elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease died as a result of a nursing home’s negligent care according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health. According to the investigation findings, the nursing home resident also was noted to have dysphasia, or difficulty swallowing. While being fed by a certified nursing assistant, the man began to cough and gasp for air. Though in obvious distress, no telephone call to emergency response was made for 20 minutes (something caregivers lied about to DPH). When paramedics arrived approximately 10 minutes later, the man was already dead.

The DPH issued a AA citation and an $80,000 fine for its failures.

The nursing home, Homewood Care Center in San Jose, was owned by Jack Easterday. Mr. Easterday was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in 2007 for his willful failure to pay employment taxes. He was the owner of a company called Westline Medical Management, which owned Homewood Care Center and several other nursing homes in California.

SmartMoney.com has an article out entitled 10 Things Nursing Homes Won’t Tell You. Which has been adapted from the book “1,001 Things They Won’t Tell You: An Insider’s Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely,” by Jonathan Dahl.

Walton Law Firm thought you might like to see the list:

1. “We’re careless about the drugs we give out.”

The California legislature has called for an investigation into why only one-third of the fines assessed against nursing homes for negligent care are being collected. The audit that was approved in February is expected to look how the funds are collected and how they’re spent.

Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles told California Watch, “The whole point of having citation accounts and the penalty system is to deter nursing homes from doing anything but provide the highest quality care to residents. If the fines coming in are less than a third of (those) issued, it leaves one to wonder if the state is being as effective as it could be in protecting nursing home residents.”

Records obtained by California Watch reveal that in 2008 state regulators collected only $1.5 million of the $5 million that had been assessed against California skilled nursing facilities. In comparison, the same regulators have collected nearly 80 percent of the fines levied against hospitals. Kathleen Billingsley, the deputy director of the Department of Public Health Center for Healthcare Quality, said nursing homes who appeal fines do not have to pay until the process is completed.

California Watch is out with a disturbing report alleging that California nursing homes that received more than $880 million in additional taxpayer funds under a law designed to boost care, took the money did the opposite by cutting staff and wages. [“Nursing homes received millions while cutting staff, wages“] In its investigation, California Watch found 232 California nursing homes that either cut staffing, or paid lower wages to workers after receiving money from the state.

It appears that many of the nursing homes investigated used the state money to improve their financial health, not the health of its residents, and those that cut the most staff had, not surprisingly, more deficiencies issued by state inspectors than those facilities that did not cut staff.

“There was an implicit good faith agreement that things would get better … and that was broken,” state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, told California Watch. “It was broken for the people of California and for a very vulnerable population – those that need the greatest care and those that can’t advocate for themselves.”

The heirs of an elderly nursing home resident have sued the nursing home for causing the death of their father Oliver Shrock. The lawsuit alleges that caregivers at Kindred Healthcare Center in Orange County ignored the family’s warnings that Shrock was at risk for falling, and failing to take appropriate fall precautions, such as using a bed alarm. On July 14, 2008, just two months after his admission into the facility, Shrock fell and struck his head. He died four days later.

The California Department of Public Health investigated the 77-year-old’s death and concluded that the resident’s death was caused by the nursing home’s negligent care. A AA citation was issued, and an $85,000 assessed.

According to the lawsuit, Shrock fell shortly after admission, and that while some fall interventions were taken, they were used sporadically. For example, a bed alarm was used on Shrock, but only occasionally. The visiting daughters would repeatedly after to remind the facility to use it. Sadly, on the day of the fall, the bed alarm was not in place. It was the day Shrock was going to go home.

All licensed nursing homes in California are licensed and certified by the California Department of Public Health, which conducts an annual inspection of every licensed skilled nursing facility in the state. In addition, the DPH is charged with the duty to investigate complaints of neglect or abuse, and issue the results of its investigation. Here is some general information about making a complaint against a nursing home.

First, who can make a complaint? Under California law, any person can make a complaint about a nursing home; it does not just have to be the resident, family member, or responsible party. Complaints may be made anonymously.

When is a good time to make a complaint? A complaint should be made whenever one considers the treatment problems to be serious enough to report. It is usually a good idea to express your complaints to the facility first, but if you feel like you’re not being taken seriously, call DPH.

Nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers in California often lament the state’s weak enforcement of bad nursing homes. The California Department of Public Health, due primarily to inadequate funding, rarely provides the strong oversight of California’s 1,200 or so licensed skilled nursing facilities. As a result, bad nursing homes operate with relative impunity, and those who screw up rarely suffer the consequences.

Apparently California is not alone. In Connecticut, the director of the state’s Department of Public Health said his unit is dangerously understaffed. He has only four investigators to oversee the state’s 231 certified nursing facilities, and told the Norwich Bulletin that if he had 10 more, he would have a lot more cases.

State Sen. Edith Prague has apparently had enough. She is set to re-introduce a bill that would make it easier to hold the owners of nursing homes criminally responsible for abuse and neglect of patients in their facilities. Under Prague’s bill, the state’s DPH would be required to include a notice in nursing home applications telling owners they could be held criminally liable for patient neglect by employees, including for things such as inadequate staffing. “You can’t sue the state, but the nursing home owners who cut back on staffing I feel should be held responsible,” Prague said.

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