LOS ANGELES — City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday that his office has filed its second lawsuit in two years against Lakeview Terrace Skilled Nursing Facility over allegations of "patient dumping" during the COVID-19 pandemic, patient abuse and neglect, denial of medical care and efforts to conceal its conduct.
In 2019, Feuer reached a settlement with the Westlake/MacArthur Park facility requiring it to pay civil penalties and submit to a court-ordered monitor to oversee Lakeview Terrace's operations. The settlement was intended to resolve allegations that Lakeview Terrace dumped patients and didn't meet quality-of-care mandates.
"We're taking aggressive action to protect nursing home patients, who are especially vulnerable during this deadly pandemic, from serious allegations of abuse and neglect," Feuer said. "We allege this facility's conduct continues to jeopardize its patients — despite our previous lawsuit, injunction, six-figure settlement, court-appointed monitor and enforcement by state regulators. We won't let up until we know these patients receive the treatment they deserve."
Feuer's current lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction barring all Lakeview Terrace Skilled Nursing Facility staff from engaging in the acts and practices alleged in the latest complaint, the appointment of a special master to oversee operations at Lakeview Terrace moving forward and civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation of the 2019 injunction.
According to the complaint, over the past several months, Lakeview Terrace Skilled Nursing Facility has allegedly unlawfully discharged sick, elderly and disabled patients into facilities unable to care for them without getting consent from these patients or their families, which is known as "patient dumping" to make room for new, incoming patients, Feuer said.
Nursing homes receive substantially higher reimbursements for Medicare-covered patients and can receive up to $600 more per patient in reimbursements for Medicare patients suffering from COVID-19, Feuer said.
Typically, however, reimbursement rates decrease the longer a patient remains in a facility. Thus, nursing homes are incentivized to make room for new Medicare patients, even if it means discharging existing patients without regard to their health and safety, the city attorney stated.
Last February, Feuer announced the settlement with Lakeview Terrace to resolve allegations involving the dumping of homeless and mentally impaired patients from the facility as well as quality-of-care issues.
As part of that agreement, per a court order, Lakeview Terrace was required to hire a court-appointed "independent monitor" to oversee the facility's operations for two years.
The new complaint alleges that Lakeview Terrace has not protected its patients as required by this settlement or in compliance with relevant law, Feuer said, and its managers have failed to report allegations of resident abuse and neglect within the facility to the independent monitor or Los Angeles Ombudsman's Office, preventing "meaningful oversight."
The complaint alleges that some new residents are forced to spend their first night in the facility's common areas because Lakeview Terrace sometimes accepts more patients than it has beds.
"Even more disturbing, the lawsuit alleges that, in the last year, Lakeview Terrace failed to administer hundreds of doses of crucial medications to seriously ill patients, including to one patient who was denied 414 of 654 prescribed doses of HIV medicine and to another, who, while experiencing respiratory problems amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was denied 176 doses of medication by inhaler," the City Attorney's Office stated.
The City Attorney's Office alleges that to conceal this abuse and neglect, Lakeview Terrace falsified medical records. Staff allegedly signed hundreds of records falsely indicating that they had administered medication to patients when they had not, misleading regulators, the monitor and the physicians responsible for the patients' care.
The complaint also alleges that in the last six months, the California Department of Public Health found 32 violations of state and federal regulations at Lakeview Terrace and declared two "immediate jeopardies" at the facility, a status indicating that the agency found Lakeview Terrace's violations would cause or were likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment or death.
The City Attorney's Office said people can find more information about the care of loved ones in nursing homes through the Los Angeles Ombudsman advocacy program and information about loved ones in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic at www.wiseandhealthyaging.org/ombudsman.