Fraction of Nursing Home Fines Collected

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.

And while nursing homes continue to appeal more and more citations, they also appear to be getting steep discounts. Take the case of Casa Bonita Convalescent Hospital. The facility had been warned about turning off ventilator alarms, but ignored those warnings and allowed a 90-year-old resident died after her ventilator became disconnected and the alarm did not engage. The facility was assessed a $320,000 fine, but after appeals was only required to pay $20,000.

To read California Watch’s full nursing home story package, which includes graphics, click here.

The nursing home negligence lawyers at Walton Law Firm provide free consultations to individuals and families who believe a loved one has been abused or neglected in the nursing home or assisted living setting. Cases are accepted in all Southern California counties. Call (866) 607-1325 for a free and confidential consultation.