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"Cupertino nursing home fined $100,000 in woman’s death"

Original source:
San Jose Mercury News

By Barbara Feder Ostrov
Article Launched:04/19/2007 04:11:03 PM PDT

A second nursing home operated by convicted tax cheat Jack Easterday has been fined $100,000 for poor care that led to an elderly woman’s death, state health officials said today.

The fine against Pleasant View Convalescent Hospital in Cupertino is the most severe allowed under state law. It follows a $100,000 fine levied in March against Homewood Care Center in San Jose, another of the eight homes operated by Easterday, for its role in the death of a 67–year–old man.

In the Pleasant View incident, a nursing aide was using a mechanical lift to help the woman move from her bed to a reclining chair when the woman fell to the floor, striking her head and right side, according to a report by investigators from the California Department of Health Services.

The aide returned the woman to bed without getting a registered nurse to evaluate any injuries from the fall, according to the report. The woman, who suffered from heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and osteoporosis, stopped breathing shortly thereafter.

A coroner’s report indicated that the woman suffered blunt impact to her torso and a lacerated liver, leading to her death.

Easterday, who in March was convicted in federal court of failing to pay about $9.6 million in payroll taxes, said today that the incident "was a very unfortunate accident."

The aide, a longtime employee of the nursing home, had moved the woman many times before without incident, he said. "I’m not sure if it was negligent care," he said.

Easterday declined to comment on his conviction for failing to pay payroll taxes, or on the recent fine against Homewood Care Center. He has filed a motion for a new trial, which will be heard at his sentencing hearing scheduled for June 13.

The case filed against Easterday by the U.S. Attorney’s office alleged that he had not paid payroll taxes from 1998 to 2005. Prosecutors claimed that he paid himself and his wife exorbitant salaries while claiming poverty to the IRS. Former employees told the Mercury News that their paychecks sometimes bounced and that staff at times had to buy adult diapers, food and other supplies for patients using their own money.

Easterday’s conviction has put his ability to operate the homes in doubt. They could be sold to another owner, or even closed. The Department of Health Services has the power to revoke Easterday’s license to operate nursing homes, but it has not yet done so.

Kathy Billingsley, the state official who oversees nursing home licensing, told the Mercury News in March that the agency was waiting for a formal notice of Easterday’s convictions. Billingsley did not immediately return a phone call from the Mercury News today.

Easterday’s homes, which collectively serve hundreds of patients, are located in San Jose, Cupertino, Oakland, Alameda, San Pablo, Hayward and Roseville.