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Motion Picture & TV Fund fined over serious injury to nursing home resident

May 20, 2010 | 12:09 pm

State regulators have fined the embattled Motion Picture & Television Fund $7,500 for failing to prevent a serious head injury sustained by an 87-year-old resident of the charity’s nursing home.

The California Department of Public Health issued a severe citation to the fund, saying the motion picture nursing home failed to follow a comprehensive plan of care for a patient who was injured while she was being transferred between her bed and wheelchair.

The incident, which occurred last May, is likely to fuel questions about the level of care that existed in the turbulent months following the fund's controversial decision in January 2009 to shut down the nursing home and hospital, which has been a fixture in Hollywood for decades.

The fund's board said it could no longer afford to continue operating the facilities and that losses were jeopardizing other services it provides to entertainment industry workers. But the fund was forced to postpone plans to shutter the long-term care facility after most of the residents refused to leave and mounted a campaign to keep it afloat. Though dozens of nursing and hospital staff were laid off last year, no date has been set for the closure.

Nursing home administrators recently posted the details of the citation inside the motion picture home, which has about 54 remaining long-term care residents.

"The citation raises concern among families that there was an atmosphere of indifference toward meeting the needs of patients and a lack of accountability,'' said Nancy Biederman, co-founder of Saving the Lives of Our Own, a coalition that has been fighting to keep the motion picture home open. "We hope any further reduction in staff will not compromise the needs of residents."

Fund spokesman Steve Honig said the incident happened "because an employee did not follow the proper procedure. Since then, the employee has been appropriately counseled and the resident involved in the
situation is doing just fine."

Honig said it was "categorically untrue" that there had been any reduced commitment in the quality of care following the closure announcement.

"The Motion Picture and Television facility has been one of the top healthcare facilities in the state of California," he said. "There was absolutely no change in the level care that the residents received after the announcement was made."

The accident happened May 28, when a certified nursing assistant was moving the resident, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and identified as someone who was "dependent on staff for transfers and was at risk for falls." The resident was being moved onto her bed from a wheelchair, using a mechanical lift.

During the move, the resident slid out of the sling on the lift and fell onto the floor, cutting her forehead so badly that the cranium was visible. She required stitches to heal a wound that was 15 centimeters wide. In its report, the Department of Public Health noted that the nursing assistant did not follow the fund's protocol of requiring two or more staff to assist during such lift transfers, and continued the practice of moving the patient by himself even after her fall.

Although nursing homes often receive deficiency notices for failing to comply with state standards, quality nursing homes rarely receive citations like the one the state levied against the fund, said Michael Connors, a spokesman for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit patient advocacy group.

In fact, state records dating back to 2004 do not show any other so-called Class A citations, those that involve serious injury or imminent danger of death, for the motion picture home.

"A citation like this is pretty rare,'' Connors said, who called the citation "alarming" and a "strong indication that the home is understaffed."

Honig objected to such a suggestion: "The incident that occurred had nothing to do with staffing issues," he said. "It had to do with an employee who did not follow proper procedures."

-- Richard Verrier


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