Nursing Home Repeatedly Cited by Health Officials

Times Staff Writers

The nursing home in Pomona where a food poisoning outbreak killed two patients and sickened dozens of others has been cited repeatedly by health officials for patient neglect and dirty premises, according to county inspection reports.

Last year, the Towne Avenue Convalescent Hospital was assessed a fine of $700 for allowing bedsores on a patient's toes to become so infected that the whole foot had to be amputated. Two years earlier, the home was assessed a fine of $1,000 for endangering patients by failing to lock up bleach and other chemicals as required, records show.

The 94-bed nursing home has also been faulted, but not assessed penalties, for scores of other infractions, including inadequate patient care that allowed patients to lie in beds soaked with urine or dirtied by feces.

During one visit in 1987, health inspectors pointed out dozens of instances of patient neglect, including more than 25 patients with long, jagged, grimy fingernails or mucus-encrusted body parts. Some patients languished without treatment of their bedsores, while others with different disorders failed to get the medicine their doctors prescribed, the inspectors found.

Not 'in Good Repair'

Inspectors also charged that the kitchen was not kept "in sanitary condition," and the facility overall was not "in clean condition" or "in good repair."

In 1988, the facility was cited again for many similar problems, including dirtiness, threadbare linens, worn-out wheelchairs, patients with untreated bedsores, inadequate nursing care, or improper dietary care.

A ranking of the state's 1,000 nursing homes by state health officials showed that for the year ending October, 1988, Towne Avenue Convalescent Hospital ranked about average in terms of patient care deficiencies cited by health inspectors.

Glen Crume, the nursing home's administrator and a part owner of the facility, has responded to all deficiencies by filing formal plans of correction.

'As Quickly as Possible'

In an interview Wednesday, he said, "The health department has to come out and do their thing. Whenever they come and find deficiencies, we correct them as quickly as possible."

He said that he does not recall ever being fined and that his nursing home is "very clean . . . popular . . . and well-run."

The county coroner office announced Tuesday that two elderly patients had died last week from eating contaminated food served at the nursing home.

Crume insisted that the findings are still "inconclusive."

But coroner's spokesman Bob Dambacher confirmed Wednesday that Laurencia Spurlock, 78, and Denise Louetta, 89, died of colitis due to the ingestion of contaminated food. "There's no doubt about it," Dambacher said. Crume said no patients have checked out of the home since the food poisoning outbreak Aug. 11. Of the 88 patients at the nursing home, 47 came down with symptoms of nausea and diarrhea. In addition, seven staffers became sick, according to health officials. Inspectors checked the nursing home's kitchen last week and reported deficient food preparation practices, such as feeding people outdated mayonnaise and serving milk that had been sitting too long without refrigeration.

Mary Orr of Santa Monica, whose sister, Laurencia Spurlock, died from food poisoning, declared in an interview, "I think what happened is a disgrace. It scares the daylights out of me."

Shirley Fannin, the associate deputy director for the county's disease control program, said the specific organism that caused the food poisoning has not yet been identified. But she said such a sudden outbreak among so many people indicated that a common source of contamination was responsible for the illnesses.

"What does that leave? Food," Fannin said. "It doesn't take a super specialist to put the facts together."

The Towne Avenue Convalescent Hospital, which opened in 1964, is one of seven owned by Crume or his family members. The other homes, which he refused to identify, are in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Cost reports filed with the state show that about 80% of the nursing home's patients are insured through the Medi-Cal program, which paid the nursing home $1.6 million during the year ending September, 1988. An additional $313,000 was due but not yet paid, causing the home to report an overall loss of about $98,400, according to Roy Yee, an auditor at the office of statewide health planning.

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