Santiago Gonzalez’s children are suing Redwood Springs Health Care Center for elder abuse, willful misconduct and wrongful death
VISALIA – The children of a man who died from coronavirus is suing his nursing home for failing to adequately protect him from the virus.
On July 15, Jaime Gonzalez, and six siblings, filed a joint lawsuit in Tulare County Superior Court against Redwood Springs Health Care Center in Visalia where their father, Santiago Gonzalez, died from COVID-19 on April 10, 2020. The family is suing in excess of $25,000 in damages for claims of elder abuse, willful misconduct and wrongful death against the skilled nursing facility by failing “to provide supervision, care and assistance by sufficient numbers of personnel.”
The lawsuit alleges that Redwood Springs failed to assist Santiago, who was over the age of 65, with his personal hygiene, including food, clothing and shelter, failed to provide him with adequate medical and mental health care, and failed to prevent him from a foreseeable disease and malnutrition and neglect. Allegations of neglect come from what the family calls “financial decisions” to cut back the facility’s spending on cleaning/disinfectant supplies and PPE, including face masks, gloves and gowns.
Santiago tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3 but in the week after being notified of his infection the family members say they were continually told their father was “doing fine” and had “no temperature.” Even on the day of his death, the family claims that the nursing home reported he was doing fine. “Later that day, on April 10, 2020, to the family’s surprise, they were notified that Santiago Gonzalez had passed away.”
The lawsuit lists 10 safety measures the nursing home failed to implement including not providing staff and others with personal protective equipment (PPE), not requiring staff and others to wear the PPE, not staffing the facility with workers unaffected by the virus, not providing staff with proper training, not monitoring residents and staff for symptoms, not monitoring elderly patients who had been infected, not providing adequate cleaning supplies, not quarantining infected residents, not conducting timely testing of resident and staff for COVID, and not informing ing families of infections, the health of their family members and the spread of the virus throughout the facility.
The family says Redwood Springs “acted in conscious disregard of the probability of injury to Santiago Gonzalez, because he was helpless to protect himself from exposure to the COVID-19 virus and [the facility’s] failure and refusal to provide such basic car and services required by law is despicable. As such, [Redwood Springs] ha[s] acted with malice.”
The lawsuit further alleges the sum of all those failures led to the death of Santiago. The family argues that the facility should have locked down the facility sooner, should have known the elderly and nursing homes were especially vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19, and should have been implementing strict guidelines outlined by county, state and federal health officials.
“Despite this knowledge and the safety procedures and protocols being issued, [Redwood Springs] … either did not implement those safety procedures and/or whatever safety procedures they did implement, if any, [the facility] negligently failed to follow/monitor them and/or disregarded them.”
The lawsuit noted that since January, Redwood Springs has had 124 residents and 71 employees test positive for COVID-19. The facility had the highest number of positive resident cases among skilled nursing facilities in the state and the fifth highest number of employee cases in the state. Of the 124 residents, 29 of them have died.
Since 2016, Redwood Springs has had 91 health-related deficiencies, more than four times the state and national average. The nursing facility has been cited for having deficiencies in its program to investigate, control and keep infection from spreading in all three of its most recent inspections.
In 2017, Redwood Springs had several infection control deficiencies including not properly labeling a biohazard storage area and cleaning and disinfecting products and not using those products according to directions, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Also in 2017, the facility had a scabies outbreak in 14 patients because staff failed to implement a control plan for the rash caused by a microscopic mite that burrow into the upper layer of the skin and lays eggs. This was the facility’s only infection citation since 2017.
In 2018, the facility failed to prevent the spread of bacteria in eight separate incidents including not washing hands, not changing gloves, leaving soiled linens on the ground, not cleaning bathrooms after use and handling trash without gloves.
Redwood Springs Healthcare Center is owned by the Plum Healthcare Group LLC, which owns 42 nursing homes throughout California, seven of which have been fined for health-related violations totaling $115,775, according to data from Medicare.gov compiled by Review.care, a web site that evaluates and compares nursing homes. Plum also owns Linwood Meadows Health Care Center in Visalia which had its own outbreak of the virus infecting 58 residents and 38 employees contract COVID-19.
Plum’s facilities overall were rated four of five stars, but 14 of its facilities received two stars or less for health inspections. Since 2017, half of Plum’s facilities have had at least one infection citation that could have led to harming patients or staff, but no one was hurt, according to a recent report by Kaiser Health News. A dozen were cited multiple times and one facility, the Pine Creek Care Center in Roseville, was cited four times in the last three years.