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Nursing home closure strands residents
The Bakersfield Californian
It took more than a year for Bakersfield City School District board member Andrae Gonzales to find his father, paralyzed from an autoimmune disorder, a local nursing home that could give him the care he needs.
But the trustee, also founder of the local Children First nonprofit, found one: Corinthian Gardens Health Care Center in northeast Bakersfield.
Well, now he and presumably many others are back to square one with Corinthian closing May 27 after the state pulled its license to treat Medicare patients.
Corinthian Gardens, at 1611 Height St., has 180 residents. Among its issues: its registered nurses spent less than half the time with patients that other nurses averaged statewide, according to a federal Medicare profile for the facility. Corinthian nurses spent 24 minutes per patient each day; the statewide average is 55 minutes.
The facility also racked up dozens of health deficiencies over the years for limited access to public records; failure to develop policies preventing mistreatment, neglect or abuse; and failure to provide a safe and clean environment.
While the home clearly had problems, it's still exactly that for residents staying there -- home. Gonzales said he's noticed vast improvements at Corinthian Gardens and now that the center's closing, he doesn't know where his dad will live.
"Closing the facility's going to pose a huge hardship for my family," he said.
Officials at Corinthian Gardens declined to comment for this story.
Gonzales' father, Manuel Gonzales, requires a facility with a ventilator bed because he can't breathe on his own.
The 69-year-old former Bakersfield College counselor got sick with the stomach flu right after Thanksgiving 2012.
His immune system went into overdrive. It began attacking his nerves and Manuel Gonzales -- who spent 37 years at BC -- was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Guillain Barre syndrome.
He was transported from a local hospital to a long-term care facility in Visalia where he stayed for one month and developed bedsores, Andrae Gonzales said.
The family had Manuel Gonzales moved to another facility, where he stayed for about one year.
"It was OK," his son said. But when he had an opportunity to move his dad closer to home, he took it.
Manuel Gonzales was transported to what was then the Kern Rehabilitation and Sub Acute Center and is now the Corinthian Gardens Health Care Center.
"When we walked into the building, you could tell it wasn't the cleanest place," Andrae Gonzales said.
He said it smelled and employees were not the most attentive.
The health care center has had about 60 deficiencies (mostly minor) since last year, according to inspection reports from the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
That's close to six times the average number of health deficiencies in California, which is 10.5, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Four of the Corinthian Gardens deficiencies put residents in immediate jeopardy of harm or caused actual harm, it said.
In one of them, the result of an October 2014 investigation into a complaint, the department concluded the facility failed to "provide adequate supervision" for one resident, which put 108 others at risk of verbal and physical abuse.
Four residents were actually harmed, according to the inspection report. And one of the residents claimed in the report that another resident threatened to "slice my throat open with a knife while I slept."
Those complaints don't include those the state public health department investigated, which is a separate process.
Linda Bertsch said her husband was recovering from a stroke when she enlisted Corinthian Gardens, and he ended up getting a type of pneumonia.
Bertsch claimed her husband's paperwork was a mess, and staffers didn't wash their hands between caring for patients.
She said she reported the facility to the state Dec. 3, 2014.
The California Department of Public Health didn't have a claim with that date on its public website.
But it lists 69 substantiated complaints for Corinthian Gardens since 2010.
That means more than a third of complaints residents or their loved ones made were backed up with sufficient evidence for the state to validate them.
Twenty-five of the complaints were quality of care or treatment issues regarding resident safety, falls, facility staffing and other things.
Those don't include incidents the center's employees reported to the state. There have been more than 50 facility-reported allegations substantiated since 2010 -- five of them in 2015.
The most recent incidents are for client neglect, unknown injuries, physical environment, resident fall/safety concern and quality of care.
Still, residents say the center has improved greatly as of late, and they don't know where their loved ones will go now that the center's closing.
Nona Tolentino, a Kern County residents' rights advocate, said in an email many of those who live at Corinthian have been rejected by fancier nursing homes in Bakersfield. It's a moneymaking game tied to government aid, she said.
Medi-Cal is a state-administered, state- and federal-funded health insurance program for children and adults with limited income. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people 65-years-old or older.
"The fancier places do not wish to have long-term Medi-Cal patients because they are mainly interested in the Medicare dollars that provide higher reimbursements," she said in the email.
Corinthian Gardens, also licensed as the Corinthian Sub-Acute & Rehabilitation Center, is the only long-term care facility in Bakersfield serving patients on feeding tubes and ventilators, Andrae Gonzales said.
It's been "very, very hard" to find his dad a bed elsewhere, but the state assured him his dad will not be tossed out without anywhere else to go. That "somewhere else" may be outside Bakersfield city limits.
He's gone through a lot over the past three years, and moving him again will be very difficult, Andrae Gonzales said.
"He already feels so isolated," the son added.