Nursing homes in California should take note of the negative publicity surrounding elder abuse and assisted-living facilities in our state. A recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel described serious nursing home abuse allegations that point to fraudulent Medicare claims and poor patient treatment. In Watsonville, located in Santa Cruz County, the owners of two nursing homes are facing a lawsuit. According to the report, federal prosecutors sued the owners “alleging that leaders made fraudulent Medicare claims” and “persistently and severely overmedicated elderly and vulnerable residents.”
Overmedication and Fraud Allegations
The two nursing homes at issue are Country Villa Watsonville Easy Nursing Center and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing Center, both in Santa Cruz County. The owners have been linked to serious crimes connected to nursing home abuse and neglect.
According to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, these facilities “accepted more than $20 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments from 2007 to 2012.” While Medicare and Medicaid can provide legitimate payments for patient care, Haag emphasized that much of these funds “went to claims that were grossly inadequate, materially substandard, or worthless services.” In other words, Medicare and Medicaid paid claims for services that did not actually help patients living in these facilities.
In addition to fraud allegations, the owners face overmedication allegations. According to the lawsuit, the facilities gave residents anti-anxiety medications and other drugs “at the convenience of management.” The allegations suggest that the patients did not need these medications, but staff provided them in order to make their jobs easier.
Specific Claims in the Lawsuit
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The damages sought are yet to be determined, but the owners face possible of civil penalties that range “from $5,500 to $11,000 for each violation.”
According to the lawsuit, seven different residents between the ages of 46-101 were victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. The lawsuit claims these residents either suffered mistreatment or were the subject of the fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.
One 86-year-old resident suffered from “sepsis, lethargy, dehydration, malnutrition, an infected pressure ulcer, additional pressure ulcers, and overall functional decline.” According to the suit, the staff at the nursing home doubled the man’s daily dose of Xanax, a sedative, and also gave him two antipsychotic drugs—Haldol and Risperdal—“without the consent of his physician or family.” It is also alleged that a resident who suffers from Alzheimer’s was overprescribed psychotropic drugs.
Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Nursing home neglect can lead to severe and life-threatening injuries. While pending legislation in California seeks to change the way we think about fines and violations for assisted-living facilities, many nursing home residents continue to sustain personal injuries due to elder abuse. If you are concerned about an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.
Photo Credit: DodgertonSkillhause via morgueFile
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