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Orange County, California

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Nursing Home Fined $100,000 In Man's Death

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Owner also convicted of tax fraud.

State health officials have fined a San Jose nursing home $100,000 – the highest fine allowed under state law – for substandard care that led to the October death of a 67-year-old man, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News.

The fine was announced the same day that Jack Easterday, the president of Homewood Care Center’s parent company, was convicted of tax fraud — on 107 counts, for failing to pay about $9.6 million in payroll taxes, the March 8 article reported.

Easterday, who was described as living “like Louis XIV” in a U.S. Senate hearing last year on tax cheats, could face up to five years in federal prison. The conviction, coupled with the fine for the resident’s death, raised concerns about the future of Easterday’s eight nursing homes in California.

Pat McGinnis, founder of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said she is worried that the nursing homes eventually will be closed or sold after Wednesday’s jury verdict in U.S. District Court in Oakland causing more grief to residents who are dependent on that care.

The Homewood Care Center resident died seven months after the Senate hearing. The investigation of the man’s death and the resulting sanctions came about after an anonymous complaint, according to Norma Arceo, a state Department of Health Services spokeswoman.

The department announced Wednesday that Homewood, a skilled nursing facility, had received the most severe category of citation as a result of the patients death. The patient, whose name was not released, had been in failing health, required an oxygen tank and needed dialysis for kidney problems.

On Oct. 16, he was scheduled to enter a hospital to repair a shunt enabling his dialysis and was not allowed to eat after midnight. But the next morning, when he yelled for help and demanded an ambulance, the nursing home staff didn’t recognize that his blood sugar had fallen to dangerously low levels because he had not eaten for hours, according to agency documents. The staff also failed to provide proper emergency care when his condition deteriorated, documents say. He died shortly after noon on Oct. 17.

According to an online nursing home guide operated by the California HealthCare Foundation, the quality of care at the 58-bed home at 75 N. 13th St. is rated slightly above average compared with other California nursing homes based on previous state inspections.

Still, investigations by the health department show that patient care was substandard in nine incidents since 2002. McGinnis, the nursing home advocate, said her group had sent letters to state health officials asking that Easterday’s eight homes be investigated and that his license to operate them be revoked after Easterday was first convicted – in February 2006 – of failing to pay employee payroll taxes.

McGinnis said Wednesday that the state health agency never responded to her group’s concerns.

Prosecutors said Easterday had paid himself and his wife an average annual salary of more than $338,000 between 1998 and 2004. Among his purchases – a 10,000-square-foot home, Rolex watches, a sailboat, jet skis and a dining table and chairs that seated 22 people along with a 24-place setting of Limoges china.

I have nothing against living well. But I believe that it’s reprehensible to do so at the cost of other people’s misery and grief and by brazenly breaking the law. This guy should be getting jail time.

When you own an elder care facility – let alone eight all over the state – you owe it to your residents to give them the best care you possibly can. Obviously the staff at this particular center were not trained and the center was most likely understaffed, a ploy aimed at increasing profits.

Such negligence or possibly gross negligence, deserves to be punished, however a fine for this guy isn’t enough. He should be charged with manslaughter as well as made to pay appropriate compensation to the family of the 67-year old man that died in his care. If the man’s family are like most, they are blaming themselves for the death of their loved one, for placing him in a facility that ultimately was responsible for his premature death.

Contact me if you need a nursing home to be held accountable for what they have done to one of your parents that you entrusted to them..