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Nursing Homes Garner Slew of Complaints

Oct 26, 2002 | NapaNet Daily News

Half of Napa County's nursing homes received a higher number of complaints and deficiencies than the state average, according to reports compiled by a watchdog organization.

Pleasant Care Convalescent on Redwood Road fared the worst with 121 registered deficiencies and citations since Jan. 1, 1999. The state average is 57.

Deficiencies are violations of state or federal minimum standards for care in such areas as food preparation, residents rights, abuse and living environment.

"Very few nursing homes are totally perfect," said Philip Nichols, administrator at Robert's Nursing Home which received 76 deficiencies since 1999.

Nichols emphasized that when state and federal surveys find a nursing home in non-compliance with regulations, homes have to come up with a plan that aims to correct the violations within a certain time limit.

Inspections are performed about every nine months, according to Nichols.

"The study may not give the best picture of the current situation at a home," Nichols said.

The findings were published online last week by Oakland-based California HealthCare Foundation, a group that aims to improve access to affordable, quality health care for Californians.

The foundation looked into the condition of more than 1,400 nursing homes in California. A team of researchers from several universities compiled and analyzed data available from government agencies.

Results from the research were put on a Web site providing the public with free and easily accessible information about quality of care in the state's nursing homes.

In Napa County, the report looked at skilled nursing facilities at Napa State Hospital; Queen of the Valley; and Holderman Hospital at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville; Sierra Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; Napa Nursing Center; Roberts Nursing Home; Piner's Nursing Home; The Meadows of Napa Valley; Heart of Napa, which closed down its Napa facility in 2001; Sunbridge Care and Rehabilitation in Calistoga; Marlinda Convalescent Hospital in St. Helena; and Pleasant Care.

Five of the homes did not meet the state minimum staffing standards of 3.2 hours of nursing care per patient per day. The report also highlighted the problem of high turnover rate among the nursing staff.

Staffing information was made available for eight of the 12 Napa homes.

Roberts Nursing Home had a 210 percent change in nursing staff in 2000, according to the report. Three other homes: Pleasant Care, The Meadows of Napa Valley and Piner's Nursing Home also received a "worse-than-average" rating, with staffing turnover ranging from 100-163 percent. The state average was 78 percent.

"This is a very, very difficult job," Nichols said. "Especially nursing assistants who do physically demanding, tense work. And it happens from time to time that we have a high turnover."

At Napa Nursing Center, administrator Andy Levin said he has done everything possible to provide adequate staffing, including hiring nurses from expensive private nurse registries when staffing is down.

"It's difficult in Napa because there's not a big pool to draw the nurses from," Levin said.

However, the administrator's efforts paid off. The Napa Nursing Center's total nursing staff is above state standards, and the turnover was at an average of 79 percent, according to the report.

"I think overall all the facilities in this area do a good job," Levin said. "It's hard, though, with budget cutbacks and underfunding."

Nursing homes were also rated on three main quality performance indicators. Ratings were based on the percentage of residents who lost weight, were in bed most of the time and were put in physical restraint.

Queen of the Valley's 24-bed skilled nursing facility scored worse than average on two of these parameters. With good reason, said public relations manager Dante Allen.

Hospital patients who have suffered severe traumas and heart attacks are transferred from the acute care unit to the transient rehabilitation center where they stay for an average of 11-12 days.

"With patients who are coming out of surgery, of course you will have more people losing weight and of course you will have more people staying in bed all the time," Allen said.

Both Levin and Nichols said the initiative to gather information about the state's nursing homes on a Web site could be useful for potential residents and their caretakers.

"The more informed a person is the better," Nichols said. "But nothing beats going to the facility in person to see it for yourself."

The administrator at Pleasant Care Convalescent was not immediately available for comments on the home's rating.

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