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March 22-28, 2006

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Not So Pleasant

By Patricia Lynn Henley


Things aren't so rosy right now for Pleasant Care Convalescent of Novato and its parent company, Pleasant Care Corporation, the state's second-largest nursing home chain. The company just agreed to a $1.35 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by the California Attorney General, with a court-enforceable plan for improvements in the care of its elderly residents in 30 facilities statewide. Pleasant Care's North Bay locations include Novato, Petaluma and Napa. The Napa site is currently closed but could be reopened. Particular attention is being cast on the Novato facility, which already has two wrongful death lawsuits filed against it. In one instance, a 74-year-old female resident allegedly died in 2004 due to a massively infected bedsore; in the other complaint, a resident who was reportedly not given prescribed anticoagulant medication died of a stroke in January 2005. Now the California Department of Health Services is investigating new complaints of lack-of-care problems at the Novato facility. "The investigation could take weeks or months," says health department spokeswoman Lea Brooks. "Information will not be public until the investigation is complete." Once the news broke about the official inquiry, even more complaints were filed says Sheila McGorty, supervisor of Marin County's ombudsman program. "I guess people decided to step forward. Oftentimes people don't file complaints because they're worried about retaliation."

Reading the state's public files on the Pleasant Care operations is not for the faint of heart. In many cases, penalties were tripled because the same type of infractions occurred less than 12 months apart. The Novato site was fined $3,000 in May 2005 because a 65-year-old man recuperating from hip surgery had his incision "grossly contaminated" by feces and urine. The Petaluma operation was penalized $1,000 in September 2004 for going months without a properly certified nursing director on site, and an employee responsible for handling social service checks was fired after appropriating quite a bit of money for personal use. The Napa facility was twice fined $20,000 in a six month period: first in December 2003, when it was discovered that a 93-year-old man had suffered a broken hip but was not treated or given pain medication until three days after the injury occurred; and again in May 2004 because there was no record of proper monitoring or suctioning before the death of a 35-year-old brain-damaged patient. The company shut its Napa location in January 2005 but continues to pay licensing fees, which would allow the facility to be reopened without having to meet current building codes.


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