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State Removes 91 Mental Patients From Troubled Facility

Times Staff Writer

State mental health officials said Monday that they have removed all 91 patients from a trouble-plagued Bakersfield mental health facility where, they charged, poor care had led to “life-threatening situations.”

Crestwood Manor, a nursing home owned by Stockton-based Crestwood Hospitals Inc., is only the second such facility in almost five years to have its state contract canceled, said Dan Owen, a Department of Mental Health spokesman.

In addition, the state Department of Health Services, after assessing almost $40,000 in fines this year for alleged violations at Crestwood, last week revoked the facility’s Medi-Cal eligibility and is studying whether to revoke its operating license.

“This is an emergency situation. There were serious problems. . . . We were very concerned about the patients’ safety,” Owen said.

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In a prepared statement, Crestwood Hospitals President Jim Dobbins denied any wrongdoing and blamed the poor care on an inability to attract qualified nurses.

Crestwood’s patients, who had been placed there by mental health officials in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Kern, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Merced counties, were transferred to five private locked facilities and two state hospitals in Southern California, Owen said.

All patients are on one-year, court-ordered confinements and were sent to the locked facility at Crestwood because of crowding and insufficient space at local hospitals.

“If we had the (appropriate) level of care available in this county, we would never have sent them to Crestwood in the first place,” said Jack Graham, Ventura County’s mental health director, echoing the sentiments of mental health officials in several other counties.

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State mental health officials said their decision to remove patients from Crestwood stemmed from the facility’s failure to provide adequate patient treatment and keep accurate patient records.

They charged that Crestwood over-medicated some patients, provided incorrect medication for others and failed to properly train and monitor its staff.

Owen said the decision followed eight months of investigations, reports and surveys that indicated that Crestwood had failed to upgrade patient care, despite repeated warnings.

“After several months, we do not see much evidence of improvement,” Owen said.

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In addition, the state Department of Health Services has levied $38,000 in fines against Crestwood for alleged violations ranging from lack of supervision to negligent treatment of infected sores.

Dobbins said Crestwood is appealing the largest of the fines, a $30,000 penalty assessed Aug. 24 after a 27-year-old patient was hit and critically injured by a train after mistakenly being allowed to leave the hospital grounds.

He said his firm is cooperating with the state and that “we agree with the Department of Health that we shouldn’t be caring for patients if we can’t hire an adequate staff.”

Dobbins added that Crestwood hopes to hire a new staff and re-apply for eligibility within 90 days.

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The most recent incident at Crestwood Manor occurred Dec. 9, when a patient set a fire in his room. Dobbins said an investigation later showed that the person in charge of the facility that day had left for lunch and never returned.

“It’s a lousy situation,” Dobbins said. “Our new management team . . . failed to take care of the problems at hand.”

Other alleged violations cited by the Department of Health Services included reports that a patient--the same one who was later hit by the train--complained that the male nursing supervisor took him home on two occasions and sodomized him.

Crestwood officials said the supervisor resigned after the allegations were made public. Bakersfield police conducted an investigation but no charges were filed.

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There were also complaints that Crestwood’s medical staff allegedly failed to document or treat sores on a patient’s foot for a month.


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