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Safety Rules for Care Facilities Under Review

July 10, 1998|MICHAEL BAKER

State and city officials this week pledged to explore whether new laws were needed to improve safety at residential care facilities for the elderly.

Several area residents meeting at Los Angeles City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski's local office Wednesday ridiculed existing regulations as vague and inadequate. Foremost among the concerns was the ratio of staff to nonambulatory residents currently required by the Community Care Licensing Division of the state Department of Social Services.

For example, at night, for every 100 residents, one employee is required to be on the premises and awake, with another employee on call, according to regulations.

"That wouldn't save many nonambulatory people during a fire," said Phyllis Indianer, a Tarzana resident. "If we don't do something about it, there is potentially going to be a very big problem."

Nonambulatory generally refers to people not able to walk without assistance, often those in a wheelchair or who use a walker.

Nestor Campos, a state licensing official, said in an interview that regulations for daytime require a sufficient number of employees to provide services for residents. Although no specific number of staff members is given, the licensing division decides how many are needed depending on the level of care given at a particular facility, Campos said.

Fire safety was a primary concern, according to many at the meeting.

"The law is poorly written and it's poorly enforced," said Eric M. Carlson, an attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, which specializes in boarding and care facilities. "It's really just too vague."

One of the next steps is to approach the Department of Social Services with the complaints, Carlson said.

Brendan L. Huffman, an administrative assistant for state Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles), told the group that he would try to determine what state officials could do to help.

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