California Elder Care Provider Settles with State Over Neglect and Abuse
In California, elderly nursing home patients are considered to be deserving of special protection in the eyes of the law. For example, California Penal Code section 368-368.5 makes it a crime to “inflict, permit or allow” harm to come to a dependent adult that could lead to injury or death. Under this law, it is illegal for any type of neglect, physical abuse or verbal abuse to be perpetrated on a senior, explains a California personal injury lawyer.
Nursing homes are also subject to civil liability, which means they can be sued by patients or loved ones of patients in the event that they cause harm through their abuse or neglect. The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act found in California Code sections 15600-15675 addresses the civil protections afforded to seniors against physical abuse; financial abuse; abandonment; and deprivation of care.
Regulators, including the Department of Public Health, may also issue citations to nursing homes that fail to live up to their obligations to provide reasonably acceptable patient care. Finally, Medicaid/Medicare can pull funding from nursing homes that are not in compliance with requirements.
With all of these safeguards in place, it may come as a shock to understand just how widespread nursing home abuse still is. Unfortunately, thousands of nursing homes across the state of California still subject their patients to poor treatment, neglect and cruelty.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that one company with more than 20 nursing homes in Los Angeles had been engaging in neglect and abuse. The company, Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., had been issued more than 76 citations as a result of conditions in its nursing homes from 2008 to 2012. The citations issued against the company were based on allegations that patients had suffered from a variety or problems due to abuse and neglect:
- Pressure ulcers/bed sores, which can develop when immobile patients are not moved frequently but are left to simply lie in bed or sit immobile in a wheel chair all day.
- Overmedication, which can occur accidently due to improper dosage or intentionally when nursing home staff prescribe or administer antipsychotic medications in order to make patients more docile and easier to control.
Many of these problems were allegedly attributed to low staffing in the nursing homes operated by Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. The company operated homes with more than 2,360 beds across Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties but did not have sufficient staffing levels in many of these homes.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. was subject to fines and penalties. It has now settled with the state to resolve the complaints made against it. Although it will continue to operate, the settlement will require that it increase its staffing levels in order to comply with an agreement entered into with the state attorney general’s office.
Skilled Healthcare Inc. will also be responsible for paying $350,000 annually for the cost of an independent monitor. The independent monitor will make sure that the nursing homes continue to maintain minimum staffing levels and will make reports to the state attorney general. Surprise inspections are authorized and the inspections and reports will continue for two years.
Loved ones and family members who suspect nursing home abuse should make a complaint to the California Department of Public Health so an investigation can be started. Those who have been victimized by abuse, or who have had a loved one victimized, should also strongly consider filing a civil lawsuit against the nursing home that failed in its obligations. Lawsuits are a strong motivating factor for nursing homes to shape up out of fear that they will become liable for large damage awards if a case goes to a jury.
Additional information on elder abuse and the civil claims process is available to the public free of charge through our office’s Preferred Friends and Clients Program.
If you would like to request a free book or article, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596.