Nursing home busted, fined for ‘dumping’ residents in street to take in more profitable COVID patients

A Los Angeles nursing home that “dumped” residents into lesser-equipped facilities or onto streets so it could take in more lucrative COVID-19 patients will pay $275,000 in fines, double its staff, and allow more oversight following a lawsuit filed by the L.A. attorney’s office.

The legal agreement was announced by City Attorney Mike Feuer on Monday with the Lakeview Terrace care facility, the Los Angeles Times reported, amid accusations administrators engaged in “sustained” and “intentional” misconduct in failing to properly care for patients while pushing others out altogether.

In the suit, the city alleged that the 99-bed facility was incentivized by higher reimbursement payments from Medicare to take in as many COVID-19 patients as possible by discharging long-term care residents.

“This victory for these patients is all the more important given COVID-19’s devastating impact on nursing home residents in L.A. and across the nation,” said Feuer in making the announcement.

He went on to say he believed the settlement will result in “dramatic improvements in patient care, new COVID-related protections [and] improved oversight when patients are discharged.”

Among other alleged violations, the lawsuit, filed in July, charged that nursing staff at Lakeview did not give medications to chronically ill patients but falsely reported that they had.

In addition, the suit claimed family members of residents were not consulted ahead of patients being “dumped” into other, lesser qualified facilities or discharged to the streets.

The suit cited one incident in which an 88-year-old man suffering from dementia was moved from Lakeside to a boarding facility in Van Nuys, where he was discovered a day later wandering, confused, in the street.

In another instance, the lawsuit said an HIV-positive patient was released altogether and was found hiding in a friend’s back yard out of fear of catching coronavirus.

“Although Lakeview disputes the underlying allegations, the costs associated with litigating against the City are most appropriately put towards resident care,” DJ Weaver, the administrator of Lakeview, told the L.A. Times in an email.

The incident invoked previous warnings from healthcare experts of perverse government reimbursement incentives that would lead healthcare and skilled nursing facilities to make unscrupulous decisions involving their patients, the Times noted. Under Medicare, reimbursements are four times higher for COVID-19 patients than nursing facilities are able to charge long-term care residents who have mostly minor conditions.

The city attorney’s office filed a similar lawsuit in 2019 against Lakeside Terrace alleging that the facility provided substandard care, dumped patients, and did not sufficiently maintain patient records.

Under terms of the most recent settlement, an outside monitor will once again be brought into the facility, only this time will have wider authority to protect patients and residents. The monitor will maintain 24-hour access to patient records and will be able to conduct inspections without announcing them in advance. The monitor will remain in the facility for at least 18 months, though ultimately at the L.A. city attorney’s discretion.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lakeview Terrace has recorded three COVID-19 deaths. Some 38 staffers and 48 patients have contracted the virus, the L.A. Times reported.

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Jon Dougherty

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