Medical / Health

Monday, May 8, 2017

Skilled Nursing Defendants File for Change of Venue

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 11:03 AM

Shlomo Rechnitz - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • Shlomo Rechnitz
Shlomo Rechnitz can’t get a fair trial in Humboldt County. That’s the contention of the law firm representing the skilled nursing magnate, Lewis Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP, which recently filed a motion for a change of venue in one of the three wrongful death and elder abuse suits filed against Rechnitz and his company, Brius Healthcare Management.

The case in question revolves around Ralph Sorensen, a patient at Seaview Rehabilitation and Wellness Center who died Jan. 27, 2016 after complications related to an infected pressure ulcer. In the complaint, local law firm Janssen Malloy LLP alleges that Sorensen’s death is correlated to low staffing levels at the facility and charges Seaview, Rechnitz, Brius and the administrative services company Rockport with wrongful death related to elder abuse and neglect.

The motion filed by Rechnitz’s attorneys, which will be heard on May 25, says “there is a reason to believe that an impartial trial in Humboldt cannot be had.” As evidence for this claim, the motion cites a 2011 meeting between Rechnitz and then-District Attorney Paul Gallegos in which Gallegos “threatened to jail someone if understaffing continued to occur at the facilities.”

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Huffman, Humboldt Residents, Decry House Passage of 'TrumpCare'

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 3:30 PM

John and Micha Denizio - THAD GREENSON
  • Thad Greenson
  • John and Micha Denizio
Shortly after H.R. 1628 passed by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jared Huffman's office fired off a press release denouncing the passage of "TrumpCare" as a "disaster." The bill, which includes an amendment that may remove coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions, can still be altered significantly in the Senate. Huffman isn't having it.

“At its core, TrumpCare is a massive tax break for the wealthiest of Americans," said Huffman, "with the Republican Congress playing the role of a ‘reverse Robin Hood’: robbing health care from millions of Americans in order to hand out $600 billion in tax breaks to our country’s richest people and largest corporations."

California Secretary of Treasury John Chiang also released a statement about the bill, saying, “In less than 24 hours, Congress has left 7.5 million Californians careening toward an impoverished retirement and four million Californians at risk of losing their healthcare."

According to a press release from the nonprofit Justice in Aging, the bill is also expected to have an outsized impact on older Californians, potentially raising increasing the annual cost of coverage for those in the 50-64 age group by as much as $12,900 and slashing Medicaid funding.

Only two people, John and Micha Denizio, showed up to a last-minute protest at the Humboldt County Courthouse at around 1:30 this afternoon, but another protest has been planned for 5 p.m. today, this one in response to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that would allow religious groups to openly support political causes and candidates. The "Religious Liberty" Bill also has provisions that will exempt religious groups from having to pay for contraception for employees and staff.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

EPD Offering Grant Money for Juvenile Drug Treatment

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 2:29 PM

FILE
  • FILE
The Eureka Police Department is offering $20,000 in grant money to a local nonprofit or government entity with a proven track record of successfully combating juvenile drug addiction. The money comes from the $124,000 in asset seizure funds EPD received last year, $25,000 of which can be earmarked for community education.

Chief Andrew Mills said the goal of the grant is to stem the tide of young addicts before they become entangled in the justice system. This form of primary prevention has been found to be more cost-effective than incarceration.

"It seems like there’s a never ending pipeline of people coming into the drug addiction culture," he told the Journal. "I would rather focus on preventing on those coming in as one of our strategies than singularly focus on those already addicted."

Mills cited as an example a 15-year old girl he interviewed while investigating a string of robberies.

"We found the kids with stolen candy over at the skate park," he said. "I was talking to one of the girls ... she said she was up all night, which made me wonder if there was meth on board. She said she wasn't addicted but does meth a lot because it's mostly a sexual drug, that's what [she uses] it for. It dawned on me, we have to do better as a society."

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services announced in February that local drug and alcohol overdose death rates have been at least three times higher than the state average throughout the past five years. The county currently offers outpatient counseling for youth ages 12 to 14.

The grant application states that eligible entities must have a "demonstrated competency" in working with law enforcement to address this issue and the money would go toward a program aimed at reducing
the demand for opiates or methamphetamine among the juvenile population."

The grant deadline is May 20.
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eureka Rehabilitation Accused of Dumping Patient

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:23 PM

FILE
  • FILE
Local law firm Janssen Malloy LLC, which recently filed two complaints alleging patient neglect and abuse against local skilled nursing facilities, has added another case to its slate, accusing Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center of discharging a dependent adult into a hotel without proper medical care in October of 2016. The man, who was blind and had a host of behavioral and physical problems, died four days later.

In a complaint filed March 10, Janssen Malloy alleges that a 65-year-old dependent adult, Alan Dewey, died of neglect after being discharged from Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center on Oct. 14, 2016. Filed on behalf of Dewey's sister, Sherri McKenna, the complaint describes Dewey as having a "seizure disorder and multiple complex medical problems, including bi-polar disorder, chronic pain, anxiety, blindness and encephalopathy due to hypertension and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]."

Dewey was initially admitted to the facility Dec. 22, 2014 from the Humboldt County jail. The complaint states that he suffered a significant brain injury in 1975 and also suffered from dementia, and that he was prone to becoming easily agitated, with "angry outbursts of behavior."


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Claim Seeks $1.44M From County in Right-to-Die Case

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY MAGNEY
  • Photo courtesy of Judy Magney
  • Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992.
Years before Dick Magney was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital suffering from a series of life-threatening conditions, he had spent time at a local nursing home while recovering from leg surgery.

That experience left the former truck driver who for decades battled constant pain and chronic illness determined to never again find himself in the same situation. With his health declining, Dick Magney and his wife Judy had an attorney draw up an advanced directive outlining his final instructions.

Those included being allowed to die with “dignity” and “without prolonging my death with medical treatment ... that will not benefit me.” Dick Magney did not get his wish.

Soon after he was admitted to the hospital in February of 2015, the county obtained a court order that forced him to receive antibiotics for a heart infection even though he had already refused surgery. That temporarily reversed the palliative care choices made by the Magneys with the support of his attending physician, who had determined further treatment would be futile.

While he lived long enough to see the county’s intervention overturned, the self-described “stubborn Swede” died a few months later in the same nursing home he had tried so hard to avoid. He was 74.

“It’s so sad. … It’s tragic that he had to pass away that way,” says attorney Allison Jackson, who represented the couple in their months-long legal battle with the county. “It’s tragic that the family had to go through what they went through.”


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Large-Scale Drug Treatment Coming to the MAC?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 3:11 PM

A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC.
At long last, a large-scale alcohol and drug treatment facility complete with medical detox services may be coming to Humboldt County.

The Eureka City Council is slated tonight to receive a report on a proposal to add drug and alcohol treatment services to its Multiple Assistance Center, which currently serves as a homeless intake center for single adults through a program run by the Redwood Community Action Agency with funding from the county Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposal is in its infancy, but tonight city staff will brief the council on plans to transition part of the center into a Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program. “The facility is proposed to contain approximately 10 individuals in detox and up to 40 individuals in the treatment program who could transition into the existing transitional housing component for a maximum of two years,” the staff report states.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Huffman Celebrates Failure of TrumpCare

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 3:41 PM

Huffman - FILE
  • File
  • Huffman
Rep. Jared Huffman issued a press release this afternoon in response to the failure of Republicans to bring the so-called "TrumpCare" bill to a vote. President Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of repealing the Affordable Care Act, indicated today that he would consider drafting a new bill once the ACA "explodes." The Republican healthcare replacement plan was predicted to cost millions of people their health insurance. Huffman, a vocal and vigorous critic of the Trump administration, said the collapse of the plan represented a "tremendous victory." Read his full statement below.


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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center Fined $160,000 by State

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 3:48 PM

David Brodsky with his mother, Marie White. - PHOTO BY LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Photo by Linda Stansberry
  • David Brodsky with his mother, Marie White.
Eureka Rehabilitation Center, one of the four skilled nursing facilities in Humboldt County owned by Brius Healthcare, was hit with eight fines yesterday at $20,000 each.
The facility, which was visited by state inspectors in December, has been dogged by allegations of understaffing and improper patient care. It was one of three facilities slated for closure last year as the Brius and its local administrative branch, Rockport Healthcare Services, negotiated for an increase in MediCal reimbursement rates with the region's distributor, Partnership Healthcare Services. Brius, a healthcare giant that has a virtual monopoly on skilled nursing care in Humboldt County, ended up closing only one of its facilities, Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

The state's inspection seems to confirm that this facility was, despite the insistence of Brius representatives to the contrary, understaffed. The California Department of Public Health has not provided the Journal with a manifest of the incidents that led to the fines, but the incident codes associated with each penalty, as found on the website for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reveal a pattern of poor patient care.

One $20,000 fine corresponds to a failure of the facility to provide the "necessary care for highest practicable well being," which means residents are not being cared for in accordance with a "comprehensive assessment and plan of care."

Another fine was levied due to the facility failing to meet federal guidelines for "sufficient staff to meet the needs of resident[s]." The facility was also found not to have "an appropriately functioning [Quality Assessment and Assurance] committee," according to the description of the violation code on the CMS website.

And Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center was fined five separate times, at $20,000 each, under violation code F323, the statute that requires administrators "make sure that the nursing home area is free of dangers that cause accidents."

The son of a former patient at Eureka, David Brodsky, complained to the Journal last year that lack of adequate staff and an unsafe environment contributed to his mother's fall and her placement on hospice care in August 2016. He said he had spoke with the administration and lodged a complaint with the state, but the CDPH website says that none of the five fines for safety violations were associated with complaints, meaning that investigators may have independently found hazards at the facility unrelated to the complaints of Brodsky and others. The CDPH did substantiate five complaints at the facility in 2016 related to quality of patient care, violations of discharge and transfer rights and mental abuse.

Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center was also hit with state enforcement actions and has been asked to pay $4,000 for two separate incidents of failing to self-report abuse.

When the potential closures were first announced, the company blamed the high cost of bringing in registry nurses from out of the area for an alleged fiscal shortfall of $5 million. The company insisted that without a hike in reimbursements, it could not pay a competitive wage that would attract qualified staff in Humboldt County, where there is a shortage of nursing personnel. The company also blamed the region's marijuana industry for diverting staff away from its facilities.

On Sept. 8, Vincent Hambright, Rockport's CEO, told a group of worried seniors and their family members at Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center that, should they have to leave the facility they had come to think of as home, the company would do  everything in its power to make them comfortable and see them properly accommodated. Advocates argued that the threat of closure was a venal power move by the company, one that would endanger the lives of hundreds of current and future patients who would have to travel hundreds of miles out of the area to find skilled nursing beds. Hambright insisted the company was suffering an unsustainable loss due to importing staff. When family members and patients insisted that the facility was understaffed despite this expense, citing conversations with overworked nursing assistants and problems with improper wound care, Hambright shot back that this was absolutely untrue.

But one former staff member at Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center called its understaffing "a nightmare," and said patients were "covered in feces" and suffering falls, especially during the night. And the company's own financial records revealed that, collectively, the five Humboldt facilities sent close to $5 million back into the coffers of companies owned or associated with its owner, Los Angeles-based billionaire Shlomo Rechnitz.

According to research conducted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, financial penalties do not seem to be a significant motivator for facilities to improve care. Many fines are whittled down to a smaller number in litigation or dismissed entirely. Medicaid covers the cost for skilled nursing facility chains to challenge fees in court, according to advocates, which creates a disincentive for the state to pursue litigation.

The NUHW's research revealed that in the past three years, the state dismissed $23,000 of the $60,000 in penalties levied against Brius holdings in Humboldt County. According to a report In 2014  the company that brought in $77 million in profits from its California facilities, according to a report filed with the California Attorney General's Office.




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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Settlement Next Step in Magney End-of-Life Care Case

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992 - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY MAGNEY
  • Photo courtesy of Judy Magney
  • Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992
A scathing appellate ruling that found officials with the county of Humboldt overstepped their bounds and misrepresented evidence to the court when they interfered in a Carlotta couple’s end-of-life medical decisions became final yesterday.

That sets the stage for attorney Allison Jackson, who represented Dick and Judy Magney in the case, to begin settlement talks — a process that she said will start with a letter being sent to the board of supervisors this week “in order for them to understand the gravity and significance of this decision.”

Almost exactly two years have passed since Adult Protective Services began a March 2015 investigation into never pursued or substantiated reports of possible caretaker neglect after Dick Magney — then 73 and in failing health — was admitted to the hospital.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Food Sovereignty, Tribal Sovereignty

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Potawot Community Garden farm stand. - COURTESY OF POTAWOT COMMUNITY GARDEN, UIHS
  • Courtesy of Potawot Community Garden, UIHS
  • Potawot Community Garden farm stand.
When the Northern California Tribal Courts Coalition (NCTCC) was awarded a grant to improve tribal health last year, it didn’t hesitate in identifying food as the keystone. Spearheaded by Program Director Cynthia Boshell, NCTCC will roll out its first Tribal Youth Food Sovereignty Camps later this month. The all-day camps will consist of hands-on education, discussion and participation in growing and cooking native foods. In order to serve youth on the coast and inland, the camp will be repeated on consecutive days: Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Potawot; Thursday, Feb. 23 in Klamath and Friday, Feb. 24 in Orleans.

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