News

Lawmakers target care facilities for the elderly

Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego

A coalition led by Democrats and advocates for the aged proposed a package of bills aimed at reforming the deadly conditions reported in some California elderly care facilities.

Lawmakers in both houses are pushing 14 bills called the Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) Reform Act of 2014 to strengthen the health, safety, and security of the state’s 7,5000-plus licensed RCFEs regulated by the Department of Social Services.

“We have had no changes whatsoever to the statutes of residential care since 1985, and we just said it’s about time,” said Patricia McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Monday’s briefing included personal stories from people who said they had family members harmed by the care facilities.

It’s been 30 years since former Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, also a Democrat, helped spearhead the Nursing Home Patients Protection Act of 1984, which McGinnis said inspired the founding of her organization.

Last year, several investigations unearthed failures and laws in the government’s oversight of the facilities that prompted the need for reforms.

Monday’s briefing included personal stories from people who said they had family members harmed by the care facilities.

Aaron Byzak, a proponent at today’s press conference, offered his personal testimony of RCFE failures. Byzak said staff negligence and the neglect of his grandmother’s severely broken leg led to her death last February.

“They let her sit and suffer for four and a half ours. It wasn’t till I arrived…. and I recognized immediately the severity of her injuries and I forced them, and they only did so begrudgingly, to call 911,” he said. “My grandmother passed away a few days later.”

“My father, just six months ago, went into residential care and certainly I worry about things that I read and how it might impact him,” said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego.

For the three egregious violations found by a subsequent investigation into Hazel’s death, the only retribution possible to impose on the care facility was a $150 fine that Byzak called “a smack in the face.”

According to a recent investigation by U-T San Diego and the CHCF Center for Health Reporting of the University of Southern California, RCFEs in San Diego caused at least 27 deaths.

Horror stories detailed hundreds of elders in assisted living suffered deadly bedsores, broken bones and sexual assaults in San Diego RCFEs, the investigation found.

“My father, just six months ago, went into residential care and certainly I worry about things that I read and how it might impact him,” said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. “Many of us in this room may end up in residential care at some point in our life.”

Block’s piece of legislation would require RCFEs to employ trained medical personnel on a full or part-time basis. Other portions of the proposed reform package would require complete disclosure of facility ownership and compliance history, in addition to establishing an online consumer information system on every licensed RCFE in the state.

“We should not depend on Yelp when our loved one needs help, that [information] should be clear and transparent,” said Assemblymember Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, who will carry three pieces of the reform act.

Both budget committee chairs, Mark Leno, D- San Fransisco, and Nancy Skinner, D- Berkeley, are sponsoring pieces of the RCFE Reform Act, and despite a tight budget they say the significance of the issue put forward is worth anticipated costs.

“If it’s $10 or $20 or $30 million to protect the lives of our most frail and elderly Californians, our dearest loved ones, versus paying down a $25 billion wall of debt… I think we’re going to have a very heartfelt debate as to what is necessary,” Leno said.


  • Greg deGiere

    The mis
    named “Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly” also serve people with disabilities, who suffer the same life-threatening conditions in some of them that elders do.

    The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration, a coalition of people with intellectual and all developmental disabilities and their families, friends, and service providers, strongly supports the RCFE Reform Act.

    Greg deGiere
    Public Policy Director
    The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration
    Sacramento

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