As California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration deemphasizes state penalties at nursing homes, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer is making a point of prosecuting nursing home owners and their employees who mistreat frail residents, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state Department of Justice has won convictions against more than 300 nursing home workers dating to 1999, when Lockyer took office. His predecessors had not focused on elder abuse. The convictions were for crimes including hitting patients, sexual abuse, and using forged licenses to obtain nursing home jobs.
Lockyer has prosecuted two of the nation’s largest nursing home owners: the California subsidiary of Beverly Enterprises Inc., of Arkansas, and Sun Healthcare Group of Irvine, Ca. In each case, the state obtained permanent injunctions requiring that they improve care. A criminal case against another corporation, Pleasant Care Corp. of La Cañada Flintridge, Ca., is pending. At the time of the prosecutions, Sun was the state’s largest nursing home operator, with 80 facilities, and Beverly was second, with 60. Sun and Beverly since have sold many of the facilities. The criminal case against a Sun subsidiary stemmed from a June 2000 heat wave in which two residents died at a home near San Francisco and six others were struck by heat-related illnesses. The home had a history of poor ventilation and lacked air conditioning.