By Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Recent problems at several assisted care facilities led the state Senate to advance a bill Thursday that would give California regulators the power to impose tougher penalties.

SB1153 would let the Department of Social Services ban new admissions to residential care facilities for the elderly that fail to correct serious health and safety violations. The regulators also could block admissions to facilities that don’t pay their fines.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said his bill is part of a package of more than a dozen bills sponsored by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform in response to recent failures.

The most prominent failure led to the state-ordered emergency closure of Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley in October. Despite multiple state inspections, 19 residents were left to be cared for by two unpaid workers.

New residents had been moving into the facility for months without knowing it was the subject of state scrutiny, Leno said, adding that current rules letting the state fine and close facilities aren’t enough to protect residents.

The proposed legislation will “protect families and their senior members from going into facilities which could in fact threaten their lives,” Leno said.

The measure was sent to the Assembly on a 36-0 vote. There was no registered opposition.

“This ban on new admissions will be taken seriously because it impacts a center’s ability to bring in new, paying residents,” Patricia McGinnis, executive director of the nursing home reform group, said in a statement. She said the lost income will motivate facility owners to correct serious violations and comply with health and safety regulations.

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