In yet another new low for the (for-profit) nursing home industry, now comes news of a settlement in a lawsuit by the City Attorney of Los Angeles. The original complaint accused Lakeview Terrace Skilled Nursing Facility in Westlake of dumping elderly and seriously ill residents to take in COVID-19 patients. If you think Lakeview had some benevolent motive behind the switch, think again. COVID-19 patients brought in higher Medicare reimbursements of up to $600 per day more. The lawsuit was filed in July 2020 and settled last week; Westlake paid $275,000 in penalties and agreed to comply with court-ordered monitoring.
Of course, it’s no wonder that Lakeview decided to settle the suit; what’s baffling is that the City of Los Angeles let them off the hook as quickly as they did. According to the lawsuit, the facility’s staff sent an 88-year-old man, “a senior citizen with dementia and a history of wandering,” to a boarding house in Van Nuys. He was discovered wandering the streets. Another resident with HIV was also dumped and ended up in a friend’s backyard. These are hardly trivial accusations and charges. It is obvious to even the most casual observer that such actions constitute grave breaches of fiduciary duty as well as criminal neglect. Keep in mind that these residents were ejected from the facility, motivated by greed to take on higher reimbursements of COVID-19 patients while they still have multiple elderly, medical compromised patients to care for, all during a raging pandemic. The reckless disregard for human life is deplorable on many levels.
Ironically, the recently settled case wasn’t even the first time Lakeview was accused of wrongdoing. In 2019, the City’s Attorney Office filed a similar suit for patient-dumping, inadequate care, and a failure to maintain patient records. Given that Lakeview is a repeat offender, it’s time to question not just the facility but the organizations providing oversight and enforcement of rules and regulations.
So why are nursing homes dumping nursing home patients?
In our opinion, the fines and penalties are entirely insufficient. They do not send a strong enough message to the owners of Lakeview, or any other for-profit skilled nursing facility, that such actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Risking innocent nursing home residents’ lives by dumping them to clear beds for more lucrative patients is abhorrent.
Next time, may we suggest, it should be two strikes, and you’re out. Either shut down such facilities entirely or appoint a Court Receiver and coerce new ownership. Protecting our elderly population needs to be paramount, and that message must be made crystal clear. Settlements of the kind announced in Los Angeles do more harm than good.
It is hard seeing the mis-treatment of Nursing Home patients and seeing this new trend of Nursing Homes Dumping Nursing Home Patients all for profit.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse, nursing home abuse and wrongful death cases. If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance please contact Wendy York today!