Southern California -- this just in

Category: Health

Nursing home chain settles with state over poor patient care

Hit with dozens of citations over poor patient care, a company that operates 20 nursing homes in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in California will increase its staffing levels under a settlement with the state attorney general’s office.

As part of the agreement, an independent monitor will ensure that Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. complies with state staffing laws, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’s office said Friday.

“This is a case about neglect and abuse of California’s elders by a facility that was supposed to protect and care for them,” Harris said in a statement. “At a time when California’s elderly population is growing twice as fast as the general population, family and friends should have peace of mind that their loved ones are being well cared for when they are in a nursing home setting.”

Attempts to reach a Skilled Healthcare representative for comment were unsuccessful.

According to Harris’ office, the state Department of Public Health issued 76 citations to the company’s nursing homes from 2008 to 2012. They alleged that patents had been subjected to conditions such as pressure ulcers, dehydration, malnutrition and over-medication, largely because of inadequate staffing.

The independent monitor will conduct surprise inspections and make reports to the attorney general’s office for two years. Skilled Healthcare will pay the $350,000 annual cost of the monitor.

In addition to Los Angeles, Skilled Healthcare and its subsidiaries operate homes in Fresno, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties, with a combined 2,360 beds.


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-- Paul Pringle



State health officials commission schools to reduce asthma attacks

The California Department of Public Health is trying to raise awareness about asthma prevention programs in schools by sponsoring a contest across the state.

The state is hoping to learn about successful programs to help students and staff breathe easier and reduce the number of asthma attacks on campuses. The state will award $2,000 to schools and $5,000 to districts for winners who have the best ideas for creating asthma-safe environments.

Asthma frequently causes students to be absent and parents to miss work, according to state public health officials.

Winners of the Achievements in Respiratory (AIR) Health Awards will be announced April 30.


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-- Anna Gorman


New program set to offer housing help for disabled Californians

The state is trying to move more disabled Californians out of institutionalized care and into the community by offering rental assistance, officials announced Tuesday.

The new program will help low-income disabled Californians become more independent, healthcare officials said. Federal funding will provide rental assistance for 335 units, according to the Department of Health Care Services.

The help is available for disabled Californians between the ages of 18 and 62 who qualify for Medi-Cal long-term care services.

The program is being offered by the Department of Health Care Services, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Housing Finance Agency.


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-- Anna Gorman


Join Los Angeles Times for live chat on rave story at 2:30 p.m.

Join the Los Angeles Times for a live video chat at 2:30 p.m. PST to discuss Sunday's rave story. Please tune in on our Spreecast channel if the above video is over capacity.

Citing coroners' records and law enforcement reports, The Times reported Sunday that at least 14 people who attended concerts produced by two Los Angeles rave promoters since 2006 have died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents.

The story focused on Insomniac Inc., led by Pasquale Rotella, considered within the industry as the nation’s leading rave promoter, and Go Ventures Inc., headed by Reza Gerami. Both men once had their largest raves in Los Angeles, but in 2012, they were indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with bribing a manager at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena to keep a lid on concert costs, such as expenses for security.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full story

The report cited deep concerns about these events from law enforcement and health officials, who describe hospitals being overwhelmed by severely ill overdose victims on a scale not seen in any other type of concerts or sporting events. The events attract tens of thousands of attendees.  

Ecstasy can cause temperatures to spike in the body to as high as 108 degrees, and according to physicians, can cause organs to essentially melt and multi-organ system failure.

GRAPHIC: Read about the 14 dead

After the article ran, Rotella’s company defended the concerts and criticized the story. In a statement, Insomniac did not address the deaths specifically but said the story sought to "twist facts" and "turned everyone who enjoys electronic music events into villains."

"At Insomniac, we aim to create inspiring environments where you don't need drugs to have a wonderful, spiritual experience," the statement said. "Behind the scenes, we work long hours with the brightest security, health and safety experts in the business to create safe environments for you."


Profiles of the 14 who died

A fatal toll on concertgoers as raves boost cities’ income

Rave producer Insomniac defends concerts, criticizes Times

-- Times staff

11 more flu deaths in San Diego County

San Diego child receiving flu shot. Credit: San Diego County News Center

Eleven more people have died from influenza-related causes in San Diego County, health officials said Wednesday, bringing the total this season to 30.

The county now has had 2,957 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, an increase of 916 from last week, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

The deceased ranged in age from 42 to 99, and all but one had underlying medical conditions, health officials said.

Last year, there were 14 deaths from influenza-related causes in San Diego County. In 2009-10, there were 58.

The 30 deaths this season is the second-highest since officials began keeping records in San Diego County, officials said.

Dr. Eric McDonald, deputy public health officer for San Diego County, again urged people to get vaccinated.

“The disease can be contracted at any time during the year, so it is never too late for a flu shot," he said Wednesday.


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 -- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: San Diego child receiving flu shot. Credit: San Diego County News Center

After drug complaints, Insomniac moves rave out of San Bernardino

Fans listen to Nas at the Rock the Bells festival at the San Manuel Amphitheater on Aug. 20, 2011. Beyond Wonderland is being moved there from the National Orange Show Events Center. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

After complaints about drug use and noise, Insomniac Inc., a Los Angeles rave company, is moving its Beyond Wonderland rave out from its longtime home in San Bernardino, but some neighbors of the new venue were angry about the change.

La-me-rave-san-bernardino-gInsomniac decided to shift the March 16 rave from the National Orange Show Events Center near downtown San Bernardino to the San Bernardino County-owned San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore after tensions with Police Chief Robert Handy and residents. It stages at least two other raves a year at the events center.

Handy said the raves have been marred by increases in crime, along with drug and alcohol abuse among concert-goers. He said undercover officers who attend the raves are routinely offered drugs for sale.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: A fatal toll on concertgoers as raves boost cities' income

In September, an officer was injured while trying to arrest a suspected Ecstasy dealer at an Insomniac rave, the chief added. He also said Insomniac refused a police request to lower the music volume at an October rave after neighbors complained.

"That's where we reached the impasse," Handy said. "They said, 'We will do what we have to do to continue to make a profit,'" Handy said.

Insomniac spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish denied that the company is relocating Beyond Wonderland because of poor relations with the city. She said in an email response to questions that Handy's statements about the October concert were "categorically untrue."

GRAPHIC: Read about 14 ravegoers who died in drug-related circumstances

"We are left to believe that the police chief must have been misinformed," Forkish said. "His comments are his personal perspective based upon secondhand information [that] in no way reflects what occurs at our festivals."

The County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 last week to allow raves at the amphitheater for the first time. County officials said the venue manager, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the Beverly Hills-based concert and ticketing giant, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department would deploy extra security staff and sheriff's deputies to keep the concert safe and orderly.

Continue reading »

L.A. supervisors approve task force to examine 'maternity hotels'

Photo: A passer-by glances over placards left outside San Bernardino County Superior Court by protestors during a preliminary injunction against a Chino Hills maternity hotel. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Immigrants rights advocates complained Tuesday about the move by Los Angeles County supervisors to crack down on so-called "maternity hotels," facilities that primarily host Asian women who travel to the United States while pregnant and stay to recover after giving birth.

The facilities' presence in the Los Angeles area, particularly the San Gabriel Valley, has generated controversy in recent months.

It is not illegal for pregnant women to travel to the United States to give birth, but residents of the neighborhoods where the centers operate have complained that they are violating zoning and building code regulations.

The complaints have surged in recent months since a facility in Chino Hills was shut down. City officials said the site had been illegally subdivided into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms.

The county supervisors passed a motion Tuesday introduced by Supervisor Don Knabe, forming a task force to look at ways to better regulate the facilities. It was pared down from Knabe's original proposal, which called for county staff to draft an ordinance that would eliminate the centers through zoning regulations.

Continue reading »

Rave producer Insomniac defends concerts, criticizes Times


A concert company featured in a Times report Sunday detailing the drug-related deaths of 14 people who attended raves denounced the story in an online statement and took to social media to urge fans to speak out.

The statement by L.A.-based Insomniac Inc., posted on the company's website and the Instagram account of company head Pasquale Rotella, did not address the deaths specifically but said the story sought to "twist facts" and "turned everyone who enjoys electronic music events into villains."

"At Insomniac, we aim to create inspiring environments where you don't need drugs to have a wonderful, spiritual experience," the statement said. "Behind the scenes, we work long hours with the brightest security, health and safety experts in the business to create safe environments for you."

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full report

Citing coroners' findings and law enforcement records, The Times reported that most of the deaths resulted from overdoses of Ecstasy and similar designer drugs tightly connected with raves. The deaths occurred during or shortly after 64 concerts produced separately or together by Rotella and another L.A. impresario, Reza Gerami, since 2006.

Rotella and Gerami declined to be interviewed for the story.

In the statement, Insomniac said its staff searches rave attendees and takes other measures to keep drugs out of its concerts: "Even with all of our precautions, every single person who comes to our events is responsible for their choices." The statement also said "Ecstasy is a global problem."

GRAPHIC: Read more about the 14 deaths

Those sentiments were echoed in hundreds of comments, emails and social media postings.

In a tweet directed at The Times, @ethanbruns1 said, "because a person making a decision to ingest certain substances of their own accord is the organizers fault? #REALLY."

"Raves don't kill people, stupidity kills people," tweeted @TodayWasADay1.

A tweet from @edmmaniac said, "there's nothing positive in your articles."

But an email from a reader who identified herself as the mother of a drug addict said, "I would like to commend you for bringing this issue out in the open.... The death toll from these events is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to make the public aware of the nuisance these events bring."


Continue reading »

Raves: Records show deadly toll of drugs among concertgoers

At least 14 people who attended raves produced by two Los Angeles-based promoters since 2006 died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents, a Times investigation has found. 

The deaths occurred during or shortly after concerts produced separately or jointly by Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, according to an analysis of coroners' reports and law enforcement records from nine states.

Most of the deaths were linked to Ecstasy or similar designer drugs — hallucinogens tightly bound with raves, the analysis found.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full report

Despite warnings of drug risks from law enforcement and health officials, the raves staged by Rotella's firm, Insomniac Inc., and Gerami's Go Ventures Inc. have received the blessing of local governments hungry for the revenue they deliver.

"It pretty well fills all the local hotels," said Judge Dave Barkemeyer, who issued a permit for a Rotella rave in Milam County, Texas. "It brings in a fair amount of commerce."

But with the revenue has come the risk of fatal overdoses.

GRAPHIC: Read more about the 14 who died

Most of the dead were in their teens and early 20s, according to records. The youngest was 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, who overdosed at Rotella's 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Rotella and Gerami have been indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with their concerts at the Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena. According to prosecutors, the pair made about $2 million in illicit payments to a Coliseum executive to keep a lid on the cost of their concerts. They have pleaded not guilty.

Continue reading »

Glendale Memorial Hospital employees protest planned layoffs

Glendale hospital protest
Nurses, technicians and other employees gathered outside Glendale Memorial Hospital on Thursday morning to protest planned layoffs.

The hospital last week announced plans to lay off an undetermined number of employees, citing an increase in the number of uninsured patients caused by the lengthy economic recession and cuts in government insurance programs.

The 334-bed hospital also reported seeing fewer patients in recent months.

One of the city’s other major hospitals, Glendale Adventist Medical Center, laid off 21 workers  two months ago in response to federal healthcare payment reform and other industry shifts.

Glendale Memorial Hospital has said the decision to lay off employees was in the preliminary stages, so it was not known how many workers would be affected, which positions would be eliminated or when the layoffs would occur.

Protesters said the layoffs would affect patient care at the facility.

The planned cuts come at a time when hospitals across the region are bracing for the effects of the federal Affordable Care Act, which executives say will greatly expand the number of previously uninsured people coming through their doors in the year ahead.

Glendale Memorial Hospital released a statement to KTLA-TV on Thursday morning, saying it regretted any inconvenience the protest might cause patients, physicians and staff, and that “we remain eager and willing to resolve contract issues in a respectful and professional manner.”


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--Jason Wells, Times Community News

Glendale Memorial Hospital employees protested planned layoffs at the facility Thursday. Credit: Raul Roa / Times Community News


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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