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California’s Largest Nursing Home Chain Sued for Yet Another Resident’s Death

Brius Healthcare Services, the largest nursing home chain in the state of California, is yet again named as a defendant in a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit. In April, our blog discussed the two pressure-sore related deaths of men who were residents of Brius-owned nursing homes. In November 2016, 64 year old Randy Kruger died from an untreated pressure sore at Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Center after 16 months in the facility. According to reports, the pressure ulcer was so wide and so deep that you could put a fist to his backbone. Just 8 months earlier, Ralph Sorenson, a resident of Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, passed away from from an untreated pressure ulcer. His bed sore developed within one month of being admitted to the facility and records show he was rarely bathed or attended to.

Day-to-day operations of both facilities are managed by Rockport Healthcare Services, who, along with Brius Healthcare Services, was named in a wrongful death lawsuit by the families of Randy Kruger and Ralph Sorenson. Given the utter disregard shown to Mr. Kruger and Mr. Sorenson, perhaps it should not be surprising that both Brius Healthcare Services and Rockport Healthcare Services have been recently named in another lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased resident.

Patient Dies Within a Month of Admittance
Ida Lou Branch was admitted to Pacific Rehabilitation & Wellness Center in Eureka, CA after a leg surgery. She died 5 days later. In that time span, the facility ignored daily requests from her family to have her fitted for a breathing tube. On September 12, 2016, her family visited her and discovered that she had significant mental deterioration and breathing difficulties. She died that same night, 2 months before Kruger passed away at Brius-owned Eureka Rehab and Wellness and 6 months after Mr. Sorenson passed away at Seaview Rehab and Wellness, also owned by Brius Healthcare Services. The same law firm handling Ms. Branch’s wrongful death suit is also representing a woman who sustained injuries from multiple falls at another Brius-owned nursing home (the same facility where Randy Kruger died from an untreated pressure ulcer).

In a lawsuit filed by Ida Lou Branch’s family against both Brius Healthcare Services and management company Rockport Healthcare Services, attorneys allege that the facility was intentionally understaffed, a cost-cutting measure that, despite going against federal nursing home regulations, happens more frequently than one would imagine.

Repeat Offender on State’s Watch List, yet Still Able to Continue Taking Care of Residents
Brius Healthcare is on the state of California’s radar. So why are they still able to accept new residents,  continue taking care of existing residents at their facilities, and continue to receive government reimbursements? The problem is that there is no strict governing body that evaluates nursing homes, issues sanctions and fines, and enforces safety so stringently that they will ultimately pull their ability to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, the largest payer of health care for nursing homes. While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is the federal entity responsible for overseeing nursing homes, they rarely close facilities and strip them of their right to receive federal and state dollars.

In 2016, there were at least 3 wrongful death and 1 nursing home neglect lawsuit against nursing homes owned by Brius Healthcare Services and operated by Rockport Healthcare Services. That same year, the nursing home chain attempted to buy 5 other California nursing homes, but the sale was blocked by the California Department of Public Health. 3 years ago, the chain tried to buy 19 nursing homes and was also prevented from doing so by California’s Attorney General, who cited their history of abuse and neglect as reasons for intervening in the sale.

Most recently, Brius has been under investigation by the state of California for allegedly mishandling hundreds of millions of Medi-Cal reimbursements. Specifically, the nursing home chain is accused of using its affiliated businesses to rent land to their nursing homes at significantly higher prices than the market average. The complex web of nursing home-affiliated businesses is a topic our blog addressed just last week. It is a hush-hush trend that boosts the bank accounts of companies in which a nursing home owner has a vested interest, while appearing to reduce the income and assets of a nursing home. This shrewd financial tactic is often recommended by financial advisors and nursing home defense attorneys as a way of reducing assets and minimizing payouts on lawsuits. Nursing homes who engage in this strategy have been found to have higher rates of abuse and negligence.