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Nursing home group faces six lawsuits in Butte County

Chico Enterprise
March 28, 2010

CHICO - Six lawsuits are pending against the three nursing homes run by Evergreen Healthcare in Butte County.

Three of the suits are against Twin Oaks in Chico. Two are against Evergreen at Gridley, and one targets Olive Ridge Care Center in Oroville.

The six suits, filed in 2008 and 2009, allege wrongdoing and/or inadequate and negligent care of residents.

In one case against Twin Oaks, Karen Borm, a registered nurse who worked at the home, claimed she was wrongfully fired after she tried to intervene for a dying resident whose pleas for pain medication were ignored. Borm charged Twin Oaks failed to report to the state, as required, that this patient had fallen.

In another case, John Schroer, who was 89 at the time, claimed he was allowed to fall while in the bathroom at Twin Oaks. His suit stated he got no treatment for 24 hours for an extremely painful ankle, which turned out to have multiple fractures.

Stewart Smith is suing Twin Oaks, claiming his wife received inadequate care there and that when he complained, the nursing home retaliated by trying to limit his ability to visit her.

A lawsuit against Evergreen at Gridley claimed that a patient named Fay Ward became extremely ill after a doctor's orders to clean and medicate her skin sores were ignored. She was sent to Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital, where she remained for about three weeks before she died on April 4, 2008.

Another suit against Evergreen at Gridley stated that Alfonso Vigil, 92, was admitted to the facility in 2006 with numerous medical problems. He was at risk for falling and hurting himself.

The suit said staff left him alone in his room for at least 21?2 hours. He was then found dead, having slipped down in his wheelchair and been strangled by the waist belt.

A suit against Olive Ridge Care Center in Oroville claims that Robert Mills became helpless and virtually confined to bed soon after he entered the facility in 2009.

The suit claimed that at Olive Ridge, Mills suffered various kinds of harm, including dehydration, malnutrition, infection and multiple falls with injuries.

Asked about these lawsuits, a spokeswoman for Evergreen made the following statement: "We cannot discuss or comment on any litigated matters. Each facility is committed to quality of care."

A 2003 study of lawsuits against nursing homes in California said that statistically, a home can be expected to be sued for abuse or negligence about once every three years, although some are sued more often and some much less.

Some nursing homes in Butte County were not sued during 2008 and 2009. These include California Park Rehabilitation Hospital in Chico, Country Crest in Oroville, Shadowbrook in Oroville, and Paradise Skilled Nursing.

Pine View Care Center in Paradise was sued three times during 2008 and 2009. Cypress Healthcare Center in Paradise was sued twice. Riverside Convalescent Hospital in Chico, Windsor Chico Care Center and Windsor Chico Creek Care and Rehabilitation were each sued once.

In 2003, the watchdog group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform studied how many suits alleging elder abuse are filed against nursing homes in California.

Its study looked at suits filed against 577 nursing homes in 16 California counties, including Butte and Glenn, between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2002.

During the three years, 501 suits alleging negligence and incompetence resulting in injury were filed.

The suits were not evenly distributed among the 577 nursing homes in the 16 counties. In fact, the study found, more than half the facilities were not sued during the three years. Twenty-three percent of homes accounted for 71 percent of the lawsuits and 10 percent of the homes accounted for 47 percent of the suits.

The study found a correlation between the frequency of lawsuits and the frequency of citations issued by the state for inadequate care.

Staff writer Larry Mitchell can be reached at 896-7759 or