Mental Care Home Hit With Stiffest Fine : State Probers Say Women Were Raped, Used as Prostitutes

Associated Press

Men paid cigarettes or a dollar to have sex with one woman patient, and other women were raped by employees and patients at a nursing home that faces the biggest fine in California history, according to a state health department report.

El Dorado Guidance Center, a locked facility with a license to care for 99 severely mentally disturbed patients, was fined $92,250 Tuesday, said Carla Framiglia, district supervisor with the state Department of Health Services.

El Dorado has received 16 citations and has been fined $125,000 by the department since Jan. 1, according to a report in Wednesday’s San Jose Mercury News.

A team of investigators spent several days at the San Jose hospital after receiving 40 allegations of improper patient care and staff performance by current and former employees, patients and their relatives, she said.


Investigators reported that several sources advised them that a 21-year-old woman was used as a prostitute by a male patient, and that she had been placed in a predominantly male ward despite a hospital staff note that she needed “to be watched closely as she is sexually vulnerable.”

Patient Allegedly Raped

They also said they were told the woman had been “dragged down the hall and raped,” apparently by a male patient.

The health department said at least four male workers were fired for “inappropriate” sexual behavior with patients, and that El Dorado failed to report that a woman patient had been molested by a male counselor.


One of the hospital’s owners, Stephen Vernon, responded to the 23-page investigation report.

“We take citations seriously,” he said. “Our first priority will be to identify and take appropriate action to address any concerns about the way the facility provides care.”

Among the allegations in the state report are:

- “Sex is rampant--women have sex for a candy bar and cigarette.”


- “A male patient bragged he got a female patient for a Sugar Daddy.”

- A patient said a “staff member attempted to rape me there. He would take girls to the laundry room and rape them. I got away from him.”

Investigator Karen White quoted several employees as saying they were told that “if we contacted (the) patients’ rights advocate or (the) state agency, it would be grounds for termination.”

Vernon is listed in state records as an owner of El Dorado, along with his wife, Adele, of Palo Alto; John Pewther of Berkeley; Jill Ippisch of San Jose, and Richard Ippisch of Cupertino.