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"Hemet nursing home disputes $75,000 fine"

The Press–Enterprise

The Press–Enterprise

A Hemet nursing home has challenged a citation and $75,000 fine issued this year after a resident’s death.

San Diego lawyer Mark A. Johnson filed the appeal on behalf of ManorCare Health Services of Hemet last month in Riverside County Superior Court. The appeal states that the citation issued on March 13 by the California Department of Health Services lacks merit because the facility did not violate state law.

ManorCare operators also have not admitted fault in the resident’s death.

On Tuesday, Johnson referred questions about the appeal to the facility’s corporate office in Toledo, Ohio. Spokeswoman Julie Beckert could not be reached for comment.

The citation is the first to be issued to the nursing home since January 2003, according to state records.

Department of Health Services spokeswoman Lea Brooks said the state attorney general’s office would handle the appeal. She could not immediately say how often nursing homes appeal citations.

ManorCare received its AA citation, which is the most severe under state law, after Health Services Department evaluators determined that actions by nursing home employees led to the January 2006 death of an 83–year–old resident. The man died seven days after he fell out of a wheelchair at the nursing home, according to the citation.

The man, whom the nursing home had identified as a fall risk, hit his head on the floor next to his bed, the citation states. He was taken to an unidentified hospital, where he was diagnosed with internal bleeding and admitted to the intensive–care unit.

The man died after his son had him taken off life support, the report states.

The Department of Health Services declined to identify the man or the nurses who the state says disregarded medical orders and failed to properly seat the man Jan.6, 2006. The nurses no longer work at the nursing home, the report states.

ManorCare Health Services owns more than 275 nursing homes across the country, including the Hemet facility and ManorCare Health Services in Palm Desert.

The Hemet facility agreed to provide nurses with additional patient–care training after it was cited, according to a Department of Health Services report. Nursing administrators also are to check patient charts to make sure rules are followed.

Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said nursing homes often challenge citations, which sometimes take years to resolve. Her nonprofit organization provides consumers with nursing home information.

State law also allows nursing homes to pay 65 percent of assessed penalties in lieu of contesting penalties.

The Department of Health Services issued 76 citations and assessed $315,750 in fines to nursing homes in Riverside County between Jan. 1, 2003, and March 30, 2007, according to state records.

The facilities paid $70,644.50. During the same time, nursing homes in San Bernardino County were issued 158 citations and assessed $996,400. They paid $264,646.50, records show.

"This (citation) isn’t going to change behavior," McGinnis said. "We sometimes ask why aren’t there more $75,000 fines issued. But then there would be that many more citations that would be appealed."