Nursing Homes in Santa Cruz County Agree to Settlement

Back in September, we discussed a federal lawsuit concerning nursing home abuse in Watsonville. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, the leaders of those two Watsonville nursing homes involved in the suit have agreed to a $3.8 million settlement. The lawsuit alleged that the owners “provided ‘substandard or worthless services,’ overly medicated residents, and submitted false Medicare and Medicaid claims.”2189387168_cc27c053e0

Background of the $3.8 Million Nursing Home Abuse Settlement

Filed eight months ago, the lawsuit alleged gross misconduct related to elder abuse and neglect. Now, almost a year later, the leaders of those Watsonville nursing homes have agreed to settle the case. The facilities include Country Villa Watsonville East (now renamed as Watsonville Nursing Center), and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (now renamed as Watsonville Post-Acute Center). Other named parties included the CF Watsonville East, LLC, CF Watsonville West, LLC, and the entities overseeing the finances and nursing home management of the facilities.

According to the initial complaint, “the leaders received more than $20 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments for services characterized as non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless.”

One of the primary practices at issue was overmedication. To be sure, the complaint contended that residents of the facilities were given narcotics and antipsychotic drugs to treat symptoms of dementia, depression, and pain. Overmedication and off-label drug use is a serious problem in nursing homes, and the facilities in Watsonville are just one example of locations that attempt to supply “chemical restraints for the convenience of management.” In addition to harmful medication practices, the facilities didn’t “keep proper medication records” or “monitor medication side effects.”

Elder Abuse and Neglect that Shocks the Senses

In addition to the $3.8 million, the defendants in the suit agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement. This agreement will require the facilities to “implement and maintain compliance” with specific regulations. According to Ivan Negroni, the special agent in charge of the investigation with the Office of the Inspector General, “it’s outrageous when nursing home owners accept Medicare and Medicaid money to care for vulnerable nursing home residents and in return provide care so lacking in quality and compassion it shocks the senses.”

According to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the settlement also has terms that will help to hold the nursing homes accountable. They’ll be required to have an independent monitor, in addition to other protections designed to keep residents safe, in order to prevent the type of elder abuse for which the lawsuit arose in the first place. Haag emphasized that her agency is “committed to investigating such substandard care” and ensuring that nursing homes and other elder care facilities provide “appropriate, high quality care in the future.”

If you have concerns about a loved one’s safety or care in a California nursing home or assisted-living facility, it’s extremely important to discuss your case with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Signs of elder abuse and neglect can sometimes be subtle, and it’s essential that poorly run facilities providing substandard care be held accountable. If you have questions about filing a claim, contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.

Photo Credit: Crazy By Nature via Compfight cc

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