Nursing home contesting citation, $100,000 fine

A Newport Beach nursing home is contesting a state citation relating to a patient's death, company officials said Tuesday.

The California Department of Public Health this week issued its heaviest possible fine — $100,000 — and most severe citation against the Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation center after it says the facility failed to properly supervise an elderly woman who was suffering from dementia, osteoporosis and recovering from hip replacement surgery.

The woman died Sept. 6.

"Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is at all times dedicated to providing quality care for the health, welfare and safety of all of its residents," the nursing home's counsel, Marissa Brandel, said in a prepared statement. "This has always been Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center's main priority and mission. We are currently contesting the citation" issued by the California Health and Human Services Agency.

The agency oversees the Department of Public Health.

According to the state's investigation of the woman's death, after asking for privacy she was left unattended in a bathroom and fell. She had no pulse and wasn't breathing when an employee found her face down on the bathroom floor minutes later. Medics were able to revive her, but she remained brain-dead and had a fractured spine.

The woman's family took her off life support hours later, according to the state's report.

In working with the woman, nurses noted that she needed constant supervision in case she fell. In the report, in light of the woman asking for privacy, two other nurses told state investigators that they would leave the bathroom door cracked so they could make sure the woman was all right.

In this case however, the nurse was about three minutes from a lunch break, so while the woman was using the bathroom, the nurse went and looked for someone to look after the woman. Another employee performing routine maintenance in the building found the woman while the nurse was away.

The nurse should have waited until the woman was back in bed before looking for a replacement, the state concluded. That nurse no longer works at the center.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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