SACRAMENTO (CBS SF / AP) – State and local officials, including Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit against the country’s largest operator of retirement homes on Monday.
The suit focuses on Brookdale Senior Living Inc.’s 10 qualified care facilities in California.
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The company put the health of “tens of thousands” of patients at risk, forcing families to find new homes quickly by not giving at least 30 days’ notice of misses or layoffs required by skilled care facilities. It is also said that the company did not adequately prepare patients for discharge or transfer.
One was an 80-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease, heart failure and five other conditions who was released without proper notice or discharge plan, the lawsuit said. He was hospitalized within a week.
A 78-year-old man who suffered from heart and kidney disease, had difficulty walking and was recovering from pneumonia was also released without notice or plan. A catheter was used to administer drugs that were still in his body. His family was not told how to give his medication or oxygen.
“Brookdale is doing this so it can fill its beds with residents who are making more money,” the suit claims. It said the company will fire patients when their Medicare coverage ends “regardless of care and treatment needs” instead of keeping them and receiving lower reimbursement rates.
The company released the following statement in response on Monday afternoon. “
“We are aware of this lawsuit filed by the State of California against Brookdale today and similar lawsuits filed or threatened against other qualified care providers.
We categorically deny that Brookdale committed willful or fraudulent behavior. We are disappointed with the allegations against the skilled care industry. Posting unproven allegations is ruthless and undermines public confidence in a service necessary to care for the elderly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brookdale is committed to providing high quality care to our residents and patients, and we take seriously our mission to enrich the lives of those we serve. “
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The Tennessee-based company operates in 43 states. It is said there are 726 independent residential, assisted living, memory, and retirement communities capable of serving approximately 64,000 residents.
The lawsuit alleges that Brookdale has also provided the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid with false information that is used to assign “star ratings” (a one to five star rating) to help consumers choose a quality facility. Each facility receives an overall rating and a rating for inspections, staff, and quality of care.
The company overrated its nursing staff hours and received unjustified four- and five-star ratings, the lawsuit said. It is alleged that the practice violated both the Unfair Competition Act and the False Advertising Act.
“We blame Brookdale for artificially increasing its profits by cutting back on the rendition or discharge of its patients,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who responded to Senate confirmation for the Secretary for Health and Human Services in the Biden Administration is waiting. “It lured individuals into its facilities through false promises of the highest quality.”
The rating system was the subject of a long, critical story in the New York Times on Saturday. According to the newspaper, nursing home companies misled the star rating system in a way that hid long-running problems and was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, which was widespread among their vulnerable elderly and sick populations, killing more than 130,000 residents.
The rating system was especially important for families during the pandemic when they often couldn’t visit facilities in person, the newspaper said. One of the concerns cited is a lawsuit filed by a former resident of a facility in Brookdale, Kentucky.
The company has California care facilities in Bakersfield, Camarillo, Carlsbad, Northridge, Rancho Mirage, San Diego, San Dimas, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Rosa, and Yorba Linda.
The lawsuit was led by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, who said in a statement that when nursing home companies break the rules, “create environments where the most vulnerable among us are exposed to unnecessary victimization, stress and even physical harm are.”
She was joined by attorneys from Alameda, San Diego, and Santa Cruz counties, as well as Los Angeles attorney Mike Feuer. The lawsuit seeks a permanent disposition that requires better practices as well as $ 2,500 civil penalties for each violation of the Business and Occupation Code identified in the lawsuit.
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