By Stephanie Sierra and Lindsey Feingold, ABC7, August 15 2020
ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — The ABC7 I-Team uncovered staffing shortages at nearly two dozen skilled-nursing facilities in Alameda County are tied with infection control problems.
It comes as facilities across the state are faced with Friday’s looming deadline to report staffing data from the second quarter of 2020. A problem that plagued Bay Area facilities last year.
According to an ABC7 I-Team data analysis, skilled-nursing facilities across the Bay Area failed to meet staffing requirements more than 1,600 times in the last quarter of 2019.
The hot spot is in Alameda County.
ABC7’s analysis shows 23 skilled-nursing facilities in the county flagged for failing staffing requirements were also cited with 481 deficiencies in recent years.
New data obtained by ABC7 shows more than half of those facilities were flagged with infection-related deficiencies.
“People are dying in nursing homes,” said Eric Love, a patient living at Burlingame Skilled Nursing. “It’s scary.”
Love is one of many families ABC7 has profiled over the past few months concerned about staffing shortages in skilled-nursing facilities amid the pandemic.
“I found out she tested positive,” said Lisa Hoefling, the daughter of a resident at Millbrae Care Center. “I wasn’t able to get a hold of her for days, and then I find out she’s sick.”
Scott Akrie lost his father, Costell, a patient at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center.
“We didn’t even get to say goodbye,” he said describing how staff couldn’t answer the phone. “We would call…it would just ring for 25 minutes.”
Unable to visit in-person due to COVID restrictions, Akrie and his family were heartbroken.
“It was so tough on our family.”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) declined ABC7’s request for an interview.
“Why isn’t the state flagging these problem facilities?” Stephanie Sierra asked CDPH in a voicemail.
The agency responded with the following statement to our question.
Stephanie: “How is CDPH ensuring facilities are complying with infection-control guidelines recommended by the state & CDC?”
CDPH:“We conduct surveys to check on compliance. Nursing homes have both regularly scheduled surveys, and unscheduled surveys which are the result of complaints filed by residents, employees or family members. Additionally, CDPH currently has strike teams with experts from the Healthcare Associated Infection Program who are being deployed throughout the state in an effort to assist healthcare facilities with preventing and improving infection control, while taking enforcement action as warranted.”
Attorney Mike Dark with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says both efforts listed above are inadequate.
“The state perplexingly during this pandemic has shifted away from enforcement, away from citing bad facilities…into a supportive role, which is a weird thing for a regulator,” said Dark.
Essentially, inspectors that usually write citations are now acting as consultants.
“That creates a terrible conflict of interest for those inspectors themselves,” Dark said. “It’s a mistake and it’s strange to be doing now in the middle of a pandemic.”