Nursing Home Neglect Discovered, No Penalty from State?

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) have issued a press release addressing a Santa Monica nursing home that has neglected residents with impunity, and contending the state has done little to correct the problems. In the release, CANHR contends that a resident died while staff ignored breathing problems, another died from an infected bed sore, and a third was hospitalized with a neglected pressure ulcer, yet the home received no serious penalties from the California Department of Public Health who verified the neglect.

CANHR’s concern about this is shared by many, including this law firm. We have had several cases of outrageous acts of abuse and neglect that have confirmed by the state investigation, but no serious penalties issued. Take for example a case we recently accepted. An elderly Alzheimer’s patient is given a bath by caregivers at the nursing home where she resides. Because of her disease, she tends to resist care, and did resist when five caregivers tried to put her in the bath. One caregiver got so angry that she punched the resident in the face, causing a black eye and severe bruising. The resident couldn’t complain because she cannot speak (because of her disease).

When the family asked why mom had a black eye, the facility lied and said she fell. It was only after one of the caregiver’s conscious got the best of her when the incident was reported to the state. The state investigated and confirmed the abuse, but did the state issue a citation? Of course not; only a deficiency, and not for the physical abuse itself, but for the failure to report the abuse. But maybe the State didn’t think the resident was actually “punched” or “struck” by the nursing; it doesn’t use those words in its investigation report. Instead it says that the nurse “put her fist to the patient’s face.” No punch, no citation, no fine.

We have several more examples of this, as I am sure CANHR does, and most other nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers in California. As CANHR says:

It is common for DPH to issue very small fines for severe neglect and abuse. Of equal concern, DPH only collects a small percentage of the fines it issues to nursing homes. According to its records, it has collected less than a third of the fines it has issued in the last three years. Although California law and a court order obtained by CANHR require DPH to begin onsite investigations within 10 working days of receipt, the investigations of the two bedsore complaints were conducted 15 to 18 months after the complaints were filed.

To read the press release and to see copies of the DPH reports click here.