Articles Posted in California Department of Public Health

file3451272140532How often does the California Department of Public Health fine nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for elderly patient injuries and deaths? When facilities do receive significant fines as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, are those fines sufficient to protect other residents in the future? According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the California Department of Public Health issued a $75,000 fine for a Southern California nursing home due to neglect resulting in a patient’s death.

Fatal Injuries Caused By Nursing Home Neglect in Canoga Park

As the article explains, Topanga Terrace, a nursing home in Canoga Park, was issued a $75,000 fine “after staff there failed to monitor a resident who kept removing his own breathing tube, resulting in death.” The patient needed a tracheostomy tube in order to breathe following a surgery in 2013. In addition to the use of the tracheostomy tube, the patient also “suffered from multiple illnesses including dementia, chronic respiratory failure, and tuberculosis.” Despite his medical needs, however, the facility did not have a treatment plan that included methods to prevent or deter the patient from removing his breathing tube.

According to a recent report from CBS Sacramento, a California court made clear that “health officials may no longer hide from public view all the relevant details about citations issued to hospitals and nursing homes.” To be sure, the California Supreme court unanimously decided that “only the names of patients may be omitted when the California Department of Public health releases records describing the sanctions it imposed on long-term care facilities for providing improper care or endangering clients.”

Will this decision help to address issues of nursing home abuse and elder neglect across the state?

Background of the Center for Investigative Reporting Case

video_surveillance_lawsMany Californians have loved ones in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. While we want to put our trust in these facilities and to believe that they are treating our elderly parents and relatives properly, many of us worry about the risks of nursing home abuse and neglect. According to a recent article from NBC San Diego, local families want to install cameras in patient bedrooms, “but they are facing a roadblock from the state.”

Documenting Elder Neglect in Southern California

Why wouldn’t the state want to use video cameras in patient rooms to monitor for elder abuse or neglect? According to Joe Balbas, the co-owner of Vista Gardens, “elderly patients in nursing facilities should have the option of having security cameras in their room[s].” Vista Gardens is a residential facility for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Balbas believes that installing cameras in rooms—at the request of patients and their families—could help to prevent serious injuries.

Amidst news reports of elder abuse and neglect in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) across the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been criticized for its failure to investigate. What did it fail to investigate, exactly? Elderly patients and their families argue that they reported nursing home abuse incidents to the CDPH, yet they contend that the department didn’t investigate those complaints in a timely manner and failed to properly fine the responsible facilities.

budgetcalculatorMore Funding for Elder Abuse Investigations

According to a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year that would “add more than $30 million and about 260 positions for the Licensing & Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health.” Yet, the most surprising part of the new budget isn’t merely about licensing and certification. Rather, as the CANHR suggests, it’s about taking complaints about nursing home abuse investigations more seriously.

Earlier this month, the Sacramento Bee ran a story that exposed the lack of oversight from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) when it comes to nursing home abuse allegations. What is going on? According to the article, the CDPH is “weighed down by a backlog of more than 11,000 open complaints” with “no clear path to dig its way out.”

Evidence of this serious problem became cID-10045437lear after an audit report was released toward the end of October 2014. In short, the CDPH appears to have failed elderly adults in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by failing to manage its investigations of elder abuse complaints received.

Numerous Problems “Up and Down the State”

Have you been urged to place your elderly parent in hospice care despite the fact that he or she is not terminally ill? Hospice care is intended for patients who are terminally ill and for whom there is no cure. So why are healthy older adults ending up in hospice? A recent article in the Washington Post revealed that this phenomenon might be a larger problem than we’d like to think. Indeed, over the 2000s, the newspaper reported that the “number of ‘hospice survivors’ in the United States has risen dramatically.” What’s going on? According to the article, “hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren’t actually dying,” since “healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer.”

Hospice.jpgIf you have been pressured to move a parent into hospice care, your elderly loved one might not receive the kind of treatment she or he needs. For-profit companies shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of older adults. Indeed, we might think of these actions as another form of elder abuse. It’s important to speak to an experienced elder law attorney about your options.

Hospice Discharge Statistics

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay a settlement of more than $2.2 billion connected to “accusations that it improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to older adults,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. This resolution actually represents the third-largest pharmaceutical settlement in our country, and it’s one of the largest agreements in “a string of recent cases involving the marketing of antipsychotic and antiseizure drugs to older dementia patients.” The federal government is working to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are held liable for bad drugs and bad marketing.

Pills%20Credit.jpgThis news is only the latest in many reports concerning elderly dementia patients and the varied problems of antipsychotic drugs. Indeed, the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services have been working to reduce the “off-label” use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state. Experienced California elder justice advocates have been handling cases involving the use of antipsychotic medications, and the dedicated lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can discuss your claim with you today.

What is Risperdal?

“I could not protect the public any longer. There was just a failure to protect the most vulnerable people in our state from abuse and neglect” said (former) investigator for the California Department of Public Health (DPH) investigator Marc Parker of his retirement from the agency that is supposed to certify and regulate California’s nursing homes.

KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting has an excellent article out today about the failures on the part of the state to investigate and prosecute allegations of neglect and abuse in thousands of California nursing facilities.

DPH.jpgThose of us who prosecute civil cases on behalf of these victims – or, sadly, their heirs – have been experiencing this for years. We all have had cases where the DPH letter arrives saying that the complaint “could not be substantiated” despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. Or the investigator finds some small (and usually irrelevant) “deficiency” when ask to investigate a clearly suspicious death. Or telling the victim’s families to be patient, but knowing full well that the likely hood of a citation against the home, even in the strong cases, was highly unlikely.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health fined a Sacramento nursing home for the choking death of a patient. The nursing home received an $80,000 fine after Mary Yip, an 86-year-old patient with swallowing difficulties, “choked on a piece of meat during a lunchtime outing with staff members,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Choking deaths are very serious violations for which many nursing facilities in our state have been fined. Just a few months ago, we told you about a San Diego care center that received a $100,000 fine from the State of California. Nursing homes in Los Angeles County and Orange County have also been fined for choking deaths. If your elderly loved one has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect, it’s important to speak to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible.

Elderly.jpg

Details of the Serious Violation

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cited the San Diego care facility Villa Rancho Bernardo Care Center (Center) for inadequate elder care, which resulted in the death of one of its residents. According to a story from NBC San Diego, the Center received the most severe penalty under state law, a “AA” citation that is accompanied by a $100,000 fine from the State of California. This isn’t the first time the Center has been cited by the CDPH. In fact, a previous citation occurred only a few years ago. Is this care center safe for patients?

What Led to the Recent Citation?

The Center had specific physician’s orders for a 61-year-old dementia patient’s diet. The patient had been admitted to the facility with a diagnosis of dementia, and his physician’s orders later stated that he had cognitive/behavior impairment (or decreased mental status).