Convalescent Home Closes; 63 Told to Go


A well-known convalescent home was thrown into chaos late Friday with the sudden announcement that the facility was shutting down.

Sixty-three residents of Reseda Convalescent Hospital were told to leave immediately. Some were taken away by family members but others found themselves with no place to go.

There was no immediate explanation for the closing; the facility's owners could not be reached for comment.

The scene outside was one of confusion as family members arrived in a steady stream to comfort loved ones--many of whom were bedridden--and try to find them at least temporary housing.

County Health Department workers were notified shortly before 5 p.m. that the facility, built in 1968, was shutting down. Workers from the department rushed to the scene to help with the housing search and to try to reach family members not already contacted.

The forced evacuation continued into the night.

"There's no staff here tonight and I guarantee you there will be no food here to feed them tomorrow," said Victor Arkin, the county's chief of health facilities, who was on the scene.

But he said officials would not leave the residents uncared for.

"We don't have a deadline," said Arkin. "We'll be here as long as it takes."

State records show that the owner of the facility was Phoenix Health Group of Scottsdale, Ariz. No one from that company could be reached for comment Friday night.

As health workers and family members tended to residents inside, locksmiths arrived to change the locks on the front doors of the facility, located in the 6700 block of Wilbur Avenue.

Steve Witkin got a call at 4:30 p.m. that his mother, Lillian, 85, would have to be moved. His mother has Alzheimer's disease, Witkin said, and had been in the facility for several years.

"For years this was the best nursing home in the Valley," he said in frustration. "Now it has gone to the worst."

He had tried calling a nearby Jewish home but the phone was constantly busy. Other families were experiencing similar difficulties.

"They are being treated just like fodder," Witkin said of the residents.

Witkin finally did arrange to send his mother to Rinaldi Convalescent Hospital in Granada Hills.

Dr. Parviz Lahiji has 10 patients in the Reseda facility. He said he was trying to reach family members. "But I don't have access to any of the families," he said. "I'm trying to find telephone numbers to call them so that they can make a decision."

Michael Stampfli, a county health facilities evaluator, said "Friday evening is not a convenient time to be moving patients."

Resident Shelly Diamond, who has multiple sclerosis, was in a wheelchair in a nearby park, with a nurse, when the residents were told of the home's closing. She and her attendant arrived back to be told they would not be allowed into the building.

"I can't believe they did it like that," Diamond, 46, said. "We got no warning."

Diamond was eventually allowed back in to get her belongings. But staff workers arriving for their shifts were not allowed access.

"We were told we were out of a job," said maintenance man Jose Carranza.

Willman is a Times staff writer and Vitucci is a correspondent.

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