California's Department of Social Services (DSS) is under fire for their botched closure of Valley Springs Manor, a residential care facility in Castro Valley, Alameda County. Reports from multiple sources indicate a DSS employee knowingly left residents without enough food, medication, or trained staff to provide care.
The unfolding story shows the incompetence and apathy that have characterized DSS investigations for years.
In Analysts Took No Corrective Action at Closed Long-Term Care Facility, California Healthline reported the following deficiencies at Valley Springs Manor.
A lack of diapers;
A food shortage;
Residents living at the facility after it was closed; and
A missing resident (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/2).
In Reports show state worker left Castro Valley care facility in hands of a cook and two others, the San Jose Mercury News reported:
Before leaving at 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 25, a Friday afternoon, the state worker issued a $3,800 fine because the facility was still under operation despite the fact that the state had suspended the license the previous night. Before leaving, she reports handing her report to the home's cook, Maurice Rowland, even though she reportedly met with his supervisor earlier in the afternoon.
Department spokesman Michael Weston said state workers were supposed to have made sure before they left, particularly when the facility officially closed at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, that residents were being safely transitioned to new homes.
"It's clear procedures were not followed (by state workers) and that was unacceptable," Weston said. He said if correct protocol was followed, "the facility would be shut down" and emptied of residents "before the final revocation (was) actually put in place."
The fiasco at Valley Springs Manor is not the first time DSS ignored violations in long-term care facilities. Case studies show a history of failing to enforce regulations or protect residents.
2010: San Bernardino County
Wildwood Canyon Villa unlawfully confined and isolated a resident for fifteen months. Wildwood also required the resident to sleep on a mattress on the floor eighteen months.
DSS delayed nearly three months before citing Wildwood for violating the resident’s right to visitation. DSS cleared the citation two weeks later, without requiring a correction. No penalty was assessed. The resident continued to be confined and isolated.
DSS delayed over a year before citing Wildwood for the mattress on the floor. DSS cleared the citation two weeks later, without requiring a correction. No penalty was assessed. The resident continued to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
DSS delayed three years before citing Wildwood for violating the resident’s right to phone calls. No penalty was assessed.
2011: San Joaquin County
Sunny Place of Stockton unlawfully confined and isolated a resident. Sunny Place was also found responsible for the resident’s wrongful death.
DSS cited Sunny Place for violating the resident’s rights and for causing her wrongful death. DSS assessed the maximum civil penalty of $150.
Sunny Place continued to isolate residents. The Administrator said she did not appeal the penalty because, “It was so trivial.”
2012: San Bernardino County
A Wildwood Canyon Villa resident had a blocked catheter for forty-eight hours. His daughter said his abdomen was so distended that he appeared nine months pregnant, and he was screaming in pain. He died from urosepsis the following day.
As of November 2013, DSS has yet to make a determination on their investigation of neglect and wrongful death. No citation has been issued. No penalty has been assessed.
2012: Santa Clara County
Villa Fontana unlawfully confined and isolated two residents. The residents were not allowed visitors or phone calls. One resident was isolated for over two years. The other resident was isolated for a year.
DSS determined there was no violation of the residents’ right to visitation and phone calls. No citation was issued. No penalty was assessed.
2103: San Bernardino County
A family reported that Wildwood Canyon Villa chemically restrained a resident, and unlicensed staff administered medications without authorization from physician. Family also reported that Wildwood concealed signs of possible sexual abuse.
DSS received the complaints in March 2013. As of November 2013, case numbers have not been assigned. There is no indication the violations are being investigated.
Throughout California, DSS response to complaints is apathetic and inadequate. Investigations can take years. Corrections are rare. Meager civil penalties are not an adequate deterrent.
Long-term care residents are left in deplorable conditions. Families find no remedy for abuse of their loved ones.