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"State monitoring nursing home corporation"

The Press–Enterprise

The Press–Enterprise

State inspectors are checking facilities owned by the state’s second–largest nursing home corporation, which filed for bankruptcy last month, to make sure they stay open and care for residents.

Mike Bowman, spokesman for the California Department of Health Services, said his agency’s inspectors started reviewing all of Pleasant Care Corp.’s facilities, including three in the Inland area, after finding out about the March 22 bankruptcy filing.

Pleasant Care operates more than 30 facilities statewide, including Pleasant Care Convalescent on Lakeview Avenue in Riverside, Pleasant Care Convalescent on Circle City Drive in Corona and Ember Care Health Center in Perris.

"We were monitoring those facilities daily to ensure patients were being cared for," Bowman said. "We had heard employees were told not to cash their checks. We had to make sure people were showing up to work and make sure there was no disruption in service.

"The department has witnessed no immediate threat to patients or workers and operations are being maintained at all sites."

$3.3 Million Owed

Pleasant Care owes the department more than $3.3 million, which includes almost $242,000 in licensing fees for nine facilities. Bowman didn’t know which facilities owed the money. The facilities will be permitted to remain open as Pleasant Care reorganizes its debt, he said.

"We are not in the business of closing nursing homes," Bowman said. "People need care."

Neither Pleasant Care owner and CEO Emmanuel Bernabe nor his attorney Ron Bender, have returned telephone calls since Friday.

Pleasant Care critics agreed the corporation’s facilities should remain open rather than close and leave residents homeless.

"Pleasant Care is the only game in town for some counties," said Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a consumer advocacy group. "It’s not like some of these people have a lot of choice."

McGinnis said state nursing home inspectors repeatedly have found health deficiencies and issued citations to Bernabe’s facilities. The threat of future citations will mean little to a company that can’t pay its bills, she said.

The bankruptcy filing is the latest setback for Pleasant Care. Last year, the corporation agreed to pay $1.3 million and improve patient care to settle a lawsuit brought by former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer. The lawsuit came as a result of allegations of elder abuse and criminally negligent care at Pleasant Care facilities, including more than 160 violations of state regulations over a five–year period.

The corporation also agreed to pay a $1 million fine and reimburse the state $350,000 for investigative costs.

Pleasant Care has paid $675,000, said Gareth Lacy, spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"We do not believe government debts are absolved in bankruptcy," Lacy said.

As Many as 99 Creditors

Pleasant Care’s bankruptcy filing states the La Canada–based company owes about $20.7 million to at least 19 creditors, including the Department of Health Services. However, it could owe as much as $100 million to as many as 99 creditors, Bernabe claims in his filing. He estimated the corporation's assets between $1 million and $100 million, records state.

Bernabe identified Omnicare Inc., a multi–million dollar pharmaceutical corporation based outside Cincinnati, as its largest creditor. Pleasant Care owes Omnicare almost $4.2 million, according to the bankruptcy filing.

No one from Omnicare could be reached for comment.

Redlands attorney Michael Young said Pleasant Care’s bankruptcy filing will suspend action on his client’s lawsuit against the corporation. In February, the granddaughter of former Pleasant Care resident Ida Mae Davis sued Pleasant Care Corp., claiming the staff at its Riverside facility allowed Davis to fall several times until she broke her hip. The 81–year–old woman now lives at an Upland nursing home.

"The bankruptcy stops all litigation and collection measures," Young said. "Pleasant Care is not going to stop doing business or stop people from coming to its facilities."

Frances Youngquist, of Corona, said she fears going to a Pleasant Care facility after her gallbladder surgery next week. The 77–year–old woman said she filed a complaint about Pleasant Care’s Riverside facility after she was sent there to rehabilitate from a broken leg in 2005. Youngquist said she does not know if the Department of Health Services investigated her complaint about filthy conditions.

"My doctors know I don’t want to go there," she said. "That’s what I’m praying, that I don’t go there."

Despite her complaints, Youngquist said she doesn’t want Pleasant Care’s facilities to close.

"Where would everyone go?" she asked. "It’s pathetic."