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Nursing Facility in Norwalk Hit With Elder Abuse Lawsuit

North Walk Convalescent Hospital in Norwalk.

North Walk Convalescent Hospital in Norwalk.

 

By Brian Hews

The Long Beach law firm of Garcia, Artigliere & Medby has filed a lawsuit against North Walk Convalescent Hospital, a skilled nursing facility in Norwalk, Life Care Centers of America, Inc., and the facility’s Administrator Trent Weazer for elder abuse, negligent hiring and supervision, assault and battery, and fraud.

The facility is located at 12530 Rosecrans in Norwalk and the lawsuit was brought on behalf of Rudy Rivera.

Life Care Centers operates skilled nursing facilities in 25 states across the U.S.

Its website touts the Norwalk facility as a “Convalescent Hospital that focuses on 24-hour skilled nursing and rehabilitation care for inpatients and outpatients. Patients and residents work with our teams to create personalized care plans based on individual needs and goals.”

The lawsuit alleges that Rivera was sexually assaulted in his room by a male nurse named “John”, an employee with poor performance issues and known aggression propensities.

Another staff member witnessed the assault and immediately reported it to Mr. Weazer.

The lawsuit then states that Weazer and others took no action and that the defendants engaged in a scheme to conceal the assault including the Director of Nursing Gemma Degracia, Administrator Michael Ktemer, Forrest Preston, J. Stephen Ziegler, Beecher Hunter, and others.

It was days later that the facility contacted the police, an investigation ensued, and “John” was ultimately fired.

The lawsuit further alleges that understaffing was a chronic problem and that the officers, directors, and/or managing agents meaningfully disregarded issues even though they “knew the understaffing could, would and did lead to unnecessary injuries to residents.”

The facility has been the subject of over 30 complaints since 2011 according to the website Carepathways.com. The website listed all complaints investigated by the state inspectors that were subsequently “substantiated.”

In Dec. 2012, an inspection revealed that the facility failed to develop and implement policies for screening and training of employees, for the prevention, identification, investigation, and reporting of any abuse, neglect, or the mistreatment and misappropriation of property.

The investigation also noted that the facility did not provide medically related social services to help each resident achieve the highest possible quality of life.

In 2013, an investigation found that the facility was not ensuring that areas were free from accident hazards and did not provide adequate supervision to prevent avoidable accidents.

In 2014, additional reports again noted that the facility failed to provide necessary care and services to maintain or improve the highest well being of each resident. The facility also failed to ensure that each resident’s 1) entire drug/medication regimen was free from unnecessary drugs; and 2) that the process was managed and monitored to achieve highest level of well-being. This failure was given a level 6, which can result in immediate harm to the patient.

Another level 6 deficiency noted was that at least once a month, the facility did not have a licensed pharmacist review each resident’s medications and report any irregularities to the attending doctor.

The understaffing was also noted on Carepathways.com, as staffing hours per day per resident was well under the LA County and state averages.

The number of Registered Nurse’s hours at the Norwalk facility stood at 0.65, while county was at 0.81, and state facilities were at 0.88. The number of Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse’s hours was 0.78, compared to 1.00 in the county and 0.91 in the state.

Total Staff Hours equaled 3.77, 4.39 for the county and 4.38 for the state, with the Norwalk facility spending 16.5% less hours per day with residents than other county and state facilities.

The lawsuit did not specify a damage amount but indicated that Rivera was seeking “general damages according to proof, special damages according to proof, punitive and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and costs as allowed by law according to proof, for costs of the lawsuit and for such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.”

Several calls into the Norwalk facility by HMG-CN went unreturned.

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