L.A. nursing home ‘dumped’ residents to bring in lucrative COVID patients, authorities say

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By James Rainey, Los Angeles Times, March 1 2021

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said the Lakeview Terrace skilled nursing home had agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that it discharged patients to make room for others suffering from COVID-19, who are generally more lucrative to treat. 
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A nursing home accused of illegally “dumping” patients onto city streets and into ill-equipped homes in order to take in more lucrative COVID-19 patients will nearly double its nursing staff, allow increased oversight and pay $275,000 in penalties and costs to settle a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

City Atty. Mike Feuer on Monday announced the legal agreement with the Lakeview Terrace skilled nursing facility, which he had accused of “sustained” and “intentional” misconduct in failing to adequately tend to some patients, while pushing others out of the 99-bed home.

The city alleged in its lawsuit that the facility west of downtown had an incentive to discharge long-term residents in order to make room for COVID-19 patients, who brought Lakeview Terrace much higher reimbursement payments from Medicare.

“This victory for these patients is all the more important given COVID-19’s devastating impact on nursing home residents in L.A. and across the nation,” Feuer said in announcing the settlement. He predicted that the agreement would result in “dramatic improvements in patient care, new COVID-related protections [and] improved oversight when patients are discharged.”

The city attorney’s lawsuit said Lakeview Terrace had failed to give prescribed medication to chronically ill patients and falsely reported that the medicine had been given.

The July action, filed in Superior Court, also charged that family members were not consulted when patients were “dumped” at other facilities or onto the street.

In one instance, the lawsuit said, an 88-year-old man with dementia was transferred from the nursing home in the Westlake neighborhood to a boarding house in Van Nuys, only to be found a day later wandering the streets, profoundly confused.

Another Lakeview Terrace patient who is positive for HIV was released and ended up cowering in a friend’s backyard, hoping he would be safe there from the coronavirus, the suit contended.

“Although Lakeview disputes the underlying allegations, the costs associated with litigating against the City are most appropriately put towards resident care,” the facility’s administrator, DJ Weaver, said via email.

Feuer acknowledged that the facility had cooperated with the city attorney’s office throughout the investigation. Weaver’s statement concluded: “Put simply, all Lakeview residents can expect the utmost in care and treatment. Residents have been, and will continue to be, Lakeview’s highest priority.”

Healthcare experts have warned that the money skilled nursing facilities are paid under a plan by the federal government to care for people stricken by the coronavirus would lead to patient-dumping by unscrupulous operators. The reimbursement plan pays more than four times more for COVID-19 patients than homes can charge for long-term residents with relatively mild conditions.

The lawsuit is similar to another filed in 2019 by the city attorney’s office against Lakeview Terrace. That action also accused the home of patient-dumping, inadequate care and failure to maintain adequate patient records.

The new settlement brings back an outside monitor first imposed on Lakeview Terrace following the 2019 lawsuit. This time, the monitor will have broader powers to protect residents, with 24-hour access to patient records and the ability to make unannounced inspections. The outside overseer will remain in place for up to 18 months, at the discretion of Feuer’s office.

According to county health officials tracking care facilities, Lakeview Terrace has reported that 38 staff members and 48 patients have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. The facility has recorded three COVID-19 deaths.