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Care Home Operators Face New Allegations : Firm Earlier Was Fined $25,000 After Patient Choked to Death in Santa Ana Nursing Facility

Times Staff Writer

A corporation that was fined $25,000 last year after a 41-year-old patient in the firm’s Santa Ana nursing home choked to death on food is now accused by state health officials of inadequate care of two elderly patients who died in San Diego.

The state Department of Health Services charges in a civil suit that the two patients died after receiving inadequate care last year at the Meadowlark Convalescent Hospital.

The lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court seeks to enforce $30,000 in fines levied against the hospital’s former operators, South Coast Care Corp. of Long Beach.

The same corporation was given a $25,000 fine and a citation by state health officials in May, 1985, after the death of James Franklin Cochran, a resident of the Bristol Care Center nursing home, 1092 Hemlock Way in Santa Ana.

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Facility Since Sold

South Coast Care Corp. operated the nursing home at the time of Cochran’s death. The facility has since been sold.

State health officials charged that Bristol Care Center failed to care for Cochran adequately. He died choking on food, health officials said.

In the San Diego County case, state health officials filed suit last last week charging that South Coast Care Corp. engaged in actions that posed “an imminent danger” to two patients while the corporation was operating the Meadowlark hospital in northern San Diego. The two patients subsequently died.

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Meadlowlark’s owner, Samuel Blasker, assumed operation of the facility from South Coast soon after state investigators conducted an in-depth investigation of patient care problems early last summer. South Coast subsequently withdrew from nursing home operations in the area, according to Jackie Lincer, a Department of Health Services administrator in Santa Ana.

A secretary at South Coast’s offices in Long Beach said Monday that Margaret Emery, the company’s president, and Robert Pruett, its registered agent, were not available for comment.

One of the patients who died following treatment at Meadowlark, an 85-year-old, senile veteran of military service, had severe bed sores and skin breakdown by the time the nursing home transferred him to a Veterans Administration hospital in July, 1985, according to the lawsuit. He died within a month.

The suit alleges that South Coast retained “Carl A.,” the patient, “even though it knew, or should have known, that it could not provide him with adequate care.”

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The other patient, “Aileen M.,” weighed about 60 pounds when she was admitted to Meadowlark in January, 1985, according to the lawsuit--40 to 50 pounds below her ideal weight. She was incontinent but mentally alert. Her left leg had been amputated above the knee.

She continued to lose weight at the hospital, the suit says. When her doctor ordered that she be fed pureed foods, Meadowlark’s staff failed to inform him that she could not receive adequate nutrition from a pureed diet, the suit alleges. By mid-June, 1985, she weighed 52 1/2 pounds; her right foot was gangrenous and she had numerous bed sores. She died July 3.

$10,000 Fines Levied

The suit alleges that South Coast Care “failed to provide this patient with food of the quality and quantity necessary to meet her needs.”

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State health officials fined South Coast Care $10,000 last July for each instance of inadequate care. The suit seeks court enforcement of those fines and another $10,000 fine for a nurse call system that was inoperative when investigators surveyed Meadowlark in July.

South Coast also operated the San Diego Convalescent Hospital when it was fined last year for violations of nursing standards in the treatment of a 92-year-old man who later died at the facility.

Times staff writer Bill Billiter contributed to this story from Orange County.


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