VISTA — A nursing home recently stripped of its Medi-Cal certification after three patients died was given the green light Friday to evict about a dozen seriously ill elderly patients who had depended on the state health program to pay for their stay.
Superior Court Judge Arthur Jones denied a request from the Legal Aid Society of San Diego to allow the patients to remain at Golden Age Leisure Gardens.
The ruling means several residents at the skilled-care nursing facility face being shuffled--against the wishes of their families--to other rest homes in San Diego County.
Relatives of the patients had sought to have their loved ones remain at Golden Age, saying they were satisfied with the level of care. In addition, the families had expressed concern that the move could harm the patients' health.
Legal Aid attorneys maintained during the court hearing that the home's loss of certification for government payment programs was intended to sanction Golden Age, not to harm the residents.
After an intensive investigation in June, the 176-bed home was cited for more than 30 health-care violations, ranging from improper record keeping to failure to provide adequate care for the three patients who died at Golden Age this year.
State and federal regulators later stripped the home of its Medi-Cal and Medicare certification, meaning it cannot receive payments from those programs. Since then, the home has reapplied for certification to both health care programs.
Of the 105 patients who had depended on Medi-Cal and Medicare to pay for their stay at Golden Age, about 30 were moved to other homes and 60 light-care residents were allowed to stay after a new payment agreement was hammered out with their relatives.
The remaining 12 to 15 patients, who face being moved elsewhere after the judge's ruling, are more seriously ill and require a more intensive level of medical supervision, according to Rosemary Bishop, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society.
Because those residents are so frail, they are more expensive for Golden Age to house and care for, Bishop said.
"These are the sickest patients," Bishop said. "The problem is, they're the most vulnerable to transfer trauma."
Bishop said the Legal Aid Society plans to appeal the ruling in about a week. In the meantime, she expressed hope that none of the patients would be transferred due to the shortage of beds for the frail elderly in San Diego County.
"Their whole tone (at Golden Age) has been that they're not going to rush anything, but I know they're anxious to start transferring people," Bishop said.
If necessary, Legal Aid attorneys are prepared to make a case in court for any patient deemed to be at risk if moved, Bishop said.
Executives with Golden Age could not be reached for comment.