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⭒ New Developments

A Horrific Case of Déjà Vu: Riverside Nursing Home Resident Repeatedly Subjected to Sexual Assaults

On December 18 and December 29, 2017, a helpless female resident of Riverside Heights Healthcare Center was sexually assaulted by male residents with well-known histories of sexual abuse at the facility.

The sexual assaults are described in two Class B citations issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on May 11, 2018. According to the citations, the victim suffered from a severe cognitive impairment and was totally dependent on staff for care. A nursing assistant at the facility described her as “an easy target because she was non-verbal and could not defend herself.”

According to the first CDPH citation, a male resident sexually assaulted the resident while she was in the dining room with no staff present on December 18, 2017.  A nursing assistant who entered the dining room during the abuse observed the perpetrator hunched over the victim with her shirt pulled up over her breasts while he squeezed and sucked on them. An incident report prepared by the County Sheriff stated that surveillance video showed the abuse continued for approximately 10-15 minutes without interruption before staff intervened to stop it.

Eleven days after the December 18, 2017 assault, the same resident was sexually molested again by a different male resident under alarmingly similar circumstances. According to the second CDPH citation, the nursing staff got the victim out of bed around 5:40 am on December 29, 2017, put her in a wheelchair and left her in the dining room with the perpetrator and other residents. As before, no staff was present. A resident who witnessed the assault reported that the resident perpetrator sucked on the victim’s breasts one at a time while he touched her crotch area and masturbated her. Staff responded only after the resident witness yelled for help.

As it did for the earlier assault, the County Sheriff again observed surveillance video. According to the CDPH citation, the Sheriff’s report states the video shows the resident perpetrator grabbing the victim’s breasts and vagina, exposing her breasts and placing his mouth in the area of her breasts.

The staff at Riverside Heights was well aware that the resident perpetrators were a threat to other residents. Both of the CDPH citations describe their histories of sexually molesting other residents at the facility. Remarkably, Riverside Heights staff was not on heightened alert on December 29, 2017 despite CDPH initiating its investigation of the December 18, 2017 assault eight days earlier.

In each case, the California Department of Public Health fined Riverside Heights Healthcare Center $2,000, in keeping with its longstanding practice of treating sexual crimes against nursing home residents as trivial offenses.

Riverside Heights Healthcare Center has done nothing to deserve such lenient treatment. CDPH records show that over 150 complaints and incident reports have been filed with CDPH since 2016 and Riverside Heights has been cited for more than 150 deficiencies during that same period. By any standard, this is miserable performance. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has classified Riverside Heights as a “Special Focus Facility,” a designation reserved for some of the nation’s worst nursing homes.

CDPH records indicate that ReNew Health Group , a nursing home chain owned by Crystal Solorzano, is the majority owner of the Riverside Heights Healthcare Center. ReNew Health Group, Solorzano and/or affiliated companies own or operate several other nursing homes with very poor performance records, including the Griffith Park Healthcare CenterArrowhead Healthcare CenterLake Merritt Healthcare CenterHyde Park Healthcare Center and Sante Fe Heights Healthcare Center.