On October 27, 2014, Kaiser Health News reported that Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials allegedly downgraded three citations involving nursing home residents who died from neglect. Two of the nursing home residents were very young children – a three-year old girl and a four-year old boy – who died in 2012 after their breathing tubes became disconnected at Totally Kids Specialty Healthcare, a Sun Valley nursing home. Investigators found that the facility failed to monitor the children closely and to keep them safe. The other death involved a 30-year old resident of Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre in Montrose who died in 2010 because the facility failed to closely monitor the effects of blood thinning medications he was taking. In all three cases, investigators had originally sought class “AA” citations (which carry fines of up to $100,000 for violations that directly cause a resident’s death), but LA County officials allegedly reduced the penalties to class “A” citations that resulted in much smaller fines. In addition to chopping the penalties, the downgrading of the citations protected the nursing homes from required actions to revoke or suspend their licenses.
Earlier Kaiser Health News articles triggered a county audit report in August that reported DPH supervisors regularly downgrade or delete citations and deficiencies, often without communication with the investigators. In the wake of the latest article, Kaiser Health News reported on October 29, 2014 that the County Board of Supervisors ordered DPH to provide a report on inspection procedures and the percentage of inspectors’ recommended citations that had been changed by their bosses.