Tentative Ruling States That Charges Against 12 Nursing Home Workers Are Improper
A three-judge panel of the San Diego Superior Court appellate division on Friday tentatively ruled that the state Attorney General's Office improperly filed elder abuse charges against 12 licensed vocational nurses and certified nursing assistants at SunBridge Care & Rehabilitation for Escondido-East under Health and Safety Code regulations for nursing homes, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. (Huard, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/25).
After receiving complaints about the quality of care provided at the 98-bed facility, the attorney general's office obtained the consent of a patient's family to conduct a covert investigation between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21, 2003. The investigation found that nursing assistants and licensed vocational nurses had skipped routine care for the patient and did not take appropriate measures to protect her from bedsores.
The case was the first time that the attorney general's office used a hidden video camera to detect patient neglect (California Healthline, 1/9/04).
Deputy Attorney General Alan Robinson said nursing home workers typically are not prosecuted under the health and safety regulations because it is difficult to determine which workers are at fault for patient neglect. However, he said that charging the defendants under the regulations was appropriate in this case because the hidden camera investigation showed which workers violated the regulations.
Defense attorney Benjamin Gluck said that, under the regulations, individual workers could not be held responsible for the quality of care provided by their employer.
Judge Louis Hanoian tentatively ruled that the regulations do not apply to individual workers because "they don't operate the facility." Hanoian added that the charges filed against the workers did not specify the allegations against them.
Judges Lisa Foster and Kenneth So sat on the panel with Hanoian. A final ruling is expected within the next month, the Union-Tribune reports (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/25).