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John Bisnar
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Lawsuit claims two nursing homes are deliberately understaffed

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Two North San Diego County nursing homes are accused of providing substandard care to residents by keeping staff levels low to maximize profits, according to an article published in Saturday’s San Diego Union Tribune.

The allegations are in a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court against Life Care Centers of America, the corporate parent of Life Care Center of Escondido and Life Care Center of Vista.

The article states that between September 2004 and November 2006, the Escondido home received 31 “notices of deficiencies” by state regulators for providing substandard care and violating residents rights, according to the lawsuit. The Vista home received 23 similar notices over the same time period.

The lawsuit, filed March 15, did not list the specific issues regulators found with the homes.

Attorneys are seeking class-action status to represent more than 3,000 residents who live in the 13 nursing homes that the Tennessee-based company operates in California. The company operates more than 260 facilities in 28 states, according to its Web site.

The lawsuit alleges that the company purposely kept staffing levels lower than mandated by the state. The suit alleges that this was part of the company’s strategy to boost profits so its top executives could draw higher bonuses.

“Staffing levels at many of (Life Care’s) California skilled-nursing facilities are well below the minimum staffing requirements to ensure that each of the facilities’ residents receive the necessary care and services,” the lawsuit says.”(Life Care) engaged in an intentional plan to wrongfully increase business profits through noncompliance with laws and regulations governing skilled nursing facilities.”

The lawyers want a judge to order Life Care to immediately stop understaffing its homes, and they seek an unspecified amount in damages.

I absolutely agree that understaffing is the primary cause for poor care and negligence in many of the nursing homes in California, at least that what we see in many of the cases that we have handled. If one person is taking care of 25 people, what would be the quality of that care? Nursing home employees are not always to blame for poor care. Their bosses, who are making key business decisions that affect patient care, are responsible and often liable in these cases.

It is hard to imagine that the people who own and operate Life Care Centers could be so callous as to intentional under staff as a method to raise profits. Just think what other actions they are taking to raise profits. These people know the consequences of under staffing.

They fail to realize that they are in a service-oriented industry. Of course, they are running a business and if they don’t make profit, they may as well cease to exist. But there is a clear difference between making a smart business decision and making a cruel, selfish decision that benefits one party and neglects the other in the most heartless, inhumane manner. It’s just plain wrong.

Here is an excellent Web site, http://www.elder-abuse-foundation.com/, that provides a lot of information about nursing home abuse as well as several links to resources that give information about the danger signs to look for in a nursing home.

If your loved one has suffered injury or neglect in a nursing home, contact me for a free, confidential consultation.