A new investigation by CalMatters asks why a nearly-$1 million fine issued against a California nursing home over alleged health code violations went unknown by consumers. In 2018, state health inspectors visited the facility, Fresno’s Northpointe Healthcare Center, and found it to have health and safety deficiencies that put its residents in “immediate jeopardy.” These included a resident “hospitalized with sepsis after missing four doses of an antibiotic,” overworked staff missing treatments and failing to administer medication, and residents suffering from bedsore-related pain. After the state inspectors released their findings, federal authorities fined the facility $912,404, reportedly “the largest penalty given to any California nursing home in at least a decade.”
Unfortunately, the general public was not easily able to learn of these actions taken against Northpointe Healthcare Center. According to CalMatters, government-run websites tasked to publicize enforcement actions against nursing homes “often fail” in this duty, omitting important data like the $912,000 fine against Northpointe. Even when federal nursing home oversight authorities released a site allowing the public to look up information about nursing homes last year, “the website… had inexplicable data gaps” like the fine against Northpointe. CalMatters reports that information is missing for many nursing homes in the state, and getting a full picture of oversight actions against various nursing homes requires substantial effort.
Over the course of its investigation, CalMatters identified 50 nursing homes in the state with more than $100,000 in aggregate annual fines dating back to 2018. Only 14 of these facilities “were discoverable” on the new state resource page, Care Compare. Members of the public wishing to uncover data about the fines not included on the website would have to go to a more labyrinthine resource, the federal government’s Quality Certification Oversight Reports page. There they could find information about a nursing home in Orange County, California that received a 2019 fine exceeding $500,000; a nursing home in Pasadena issued a 2020 fine exceeding $280,000; and a nursing home in Central Valley that received a 2021 fine of nearly $190,000.
CalMatters reports that after it informed federal authorities of the missing fines, some of them “suddenly” appeared on Care Compare. In response to inquiries about the change, the agency said it had withheld fines “if the nursing homes were not making payments on them.” An expert suggested to CalMatters that this practice functionally rewarded nursing home facilities for their “bad behavior,” incentivizing them not to pay fines: because then the fines wouldn’t become public.
For more information into CalMatters’ investigation into nursing home fines in California, visit the report here.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.