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Newbury Park nursing home pays in class-action settlement
Ventura County Star
A highly-rated Catholic nursing home in Newbury Park has agreed to pay $345,000 and will undergo spot inspections of health records in the settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging patients were being given powerful drugs without required consent.
The long-awaited settlement was approved by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio in May and involves the nonprofit Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital and family members of former residents of the facility. It calls for the nursing home to use procedures to ensure doctors explain the benefits and risks of psychotherapeutic drugs to residents or their legal representatives.
Those discussions encompass drugs that carry black box warnings of extreme side effects and increased death risks for patients with dementia.
"I'm an only child and my dad was the whole world. I trusted them with his life," said Melisse Sullivan of Thousand Oaks, alleging her father was prescribed black box drugs at Mary Health of the Sick without her informed consent. "I just want them to be held accountable. I just don't want it to happen to anyone else. That's my point."
Representatives of the nursing home — run by nuns from the Servants of Mary, Ministers of the Sick, who live on the premises — denied all allegations of wrongdoing as part of the settlement. They said they agreed to the settlement to avoid the costs, risks and distraction of continuing a legal fight that started nearly five years ago.
"Anyone can say anything they want in a complaint," said Dawn Phleger, a San Diego lawyer who said the decision to settle was aimed at allowing the sisters to focus their resources on care, not litigation.
"The sisters had a really good reputation in the community and we wanted to make sure they were able to keep that reputation going," she said. The nursing home has a five out of five stars rating from the federal agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid.
Plaintiffs say the high rating attracted them. But they alleged doctors at the nursing home prescribed powerful drugs without discussing the impact of the drugs to residents, family members or people with power of attorney designations.
Read more: Judge certifies class-action lawsuit against Mary Health of the Sick
Read more: Ventura nursing home settlement finalized
The lawsuit alleged nursing home staff members filled out forms stating they confirmed the doctor received consent when they knew it was untrue.