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"State fines O.C. nursing homes more than $200,000 in deaths"

Original source:

The Orange County Register

Patients died in Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

State health regulators have fined two Orange County nursing homes for inadequate care that led to the deaths of two patients.

Alamitos West Health Care Center in Los Alamitos was fined $100,000, the maximum penalty, the California Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

The state's investigative report gives the following account:

In December, an 82-year-old woman was transferred from the nursing home to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with severe dehydration and acute kidney failure. The patient's nursing home medical record shows she was at risk for dehydration and so her fluid intake and outtake were to be monitored every shift.

But her records showed inconsistent documentation of fluid monitoring, and revealed signs of dehydration, including dark urine and low intake of fluid. The state documents say her doctor was never informed of her low fluid intake. The patient died in the hospital Christmas Day.

Betsy Hite, a spokeswoman for the nursing home, said the facility has appealed the fine.

"This is a very, very good building," Hite said. "It has a very good track record."

The nursing home also received fines of $20,000 and $1,000 for lesser violations.

Huntington Valley Health Care Center in Huntington Beach was fined $80,000. The state's investigative report describes what happened:

A patient's medical condition began to deteriorate in March, but no one called 911 because a nurse incorrectly believed the patient had a "do not resuscitate order." The report says the unidentified man complained of shoulder pain and vomited. A friend at his bedside asked staff to call the patient's family.

A relative told the nursing home to call paramedics. CPR was not started until the paramedics arrived. The patient could not be revived and died of a heart attack. A state review of the patient's records showed that he wanted life-sustaining treatment in the case of an emergency.

Curtis Rodriguez, administrator for the nursing home, said the nurse no longer works there.

"We take these matters very seriously," he said. "We brought it to the attention of the Department of Public Health. Our hearts go out to the family for their loss."

California has more than 1,400 nursing homes. For help choosing one or to research citations, visit the independent, nonprofit Nursing Home Guide at