Nursing Home Cut From Medicare, MediCal Funds

Times Staff Writer

State health officials have notified a Huntington Beach nursing home that it will be cut off from Medicare and MediCal funds because of patient-care violations cited during recent inspections.

The state Department of Health Services visited the Huntington Beach Convalescent Hospital in April and May and found numerous problems, including patients with bedsores and some lying on soiled sheets, according to district administrator Jacqueline Lincer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviewed the state reports and ruled last month that the home should be disqualified from receiving funds. On Tuesday, the department denied an appeal by Robert Zinngrabbe, owner of the home at 18811 Florida St.

According to federal officials, funding will be terminated Aug. 6, and such funds will not be reinstated immediately even if the care problems are corrected before that date.

The home has 117 residents, 80 of whom receive Medicare or MediCal. It is not clear if those patients will have to move, and Zinngrabbe would not comment.

Would Like to Keep It Open

Zinngrabbe, who said he had no criticisms of the inspection results, declined to say what his next step will be. However, he stressed that he would like to keep the hospital open. "We're hopeful that things can be worked out," he said.

Zinngrabbe, president of Delma Care Centers Inc., also owns a nursing home in Morro Bay, Calif., which had its state and federal funding terminated about four months ago, said Lawrence McDonough, associate regional administrator for HHS.

McDonough said his department is usually in an "adverse" situation with 10 or 12 of the state's 1,200 nursing homes at a time, but most correct problems before the funding is terminated. He called the action "the severest penalty we have," adding that only state licensing officials can shut down a facility.

There were not an unusual number of complaints about Huntington Beach Convalescent Hospital, Lincer said. The problems were noted during a normal six-month inspection. She said inspections are made unannounced and early in the morning to allow for a look at standard operating procedures.

Surveyed Again

Lincer said the hospital will probably be surveyed again if Zinngrabbe opts for a reinstatement based on correction of the problems. "But there's a strong possibility that they will miss a certain number of days (of payments from Medicare and MediCal)," she said. The hospital's payments from those two programs total $106,000 a month.

The problems uncovered by inspectors included several patients suffering from bedsores because they had not been moved and some incontinent patients lying in soiled sheets. "Four patients were observed to be in the same position for greater than three hours," according to the inspection report. "These patients were on turning schedules not adhered to."

One patient suffering from extensive facial bruises was taken to a hospital. Police were contacted, but the state Department of Health Services was not. Hospital officials told the inspectors that the patient had fallen from a wheelchair and has soft skin that is very susceptible to bruising.

Some allegedly sloppy nursing techniques and meal service were also noted. "Nurses are not checking computer printouts of doctors' orders and not taking appropriate vital signs prior to administering medications. With meal service so disorganized, the potential for patients to slip through the cracks is great," the report indicated.

Despite the problems, Zinngrabbe defended the facility Wednesday and said he feels that reports have unfairly made him out "to be an ogre" despite his 25 years in the nursing home field. "We are working very hard to resolve the problems," he said, arguing that the inspections were made at a time when he had just hired new managers.

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