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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Elder-Care Home Operator Charged

Health: Thousand Oaks woman and two employees will be arraigned on felony abuse counts in connection with a woman who died in '98 in local facility.

August 17, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two years after an 86-year-old woman, who endured massive bedsores and other injuries, died in a board-and-care home, Ventura County prosecutors have charged Thousand Oaks resident Grazyna "Grace" Baran and two of her employees with elder abuse for allegedly failing to seek medical attention for the woman.

It is the first time county prosecutors have brought criminal charges against operators of a residential care facility since an Elder Abuse Prosecution team was established by the district attorney's office in 1996.

On Wednesday, a judge postponed for two weeks the arraignment of Baran, 29, and her employees, Bronislawa Zachhrczuk, 51, and Stanislawa Wisla, 51, all natives of Poland.

Baran and Wisla are each charged with one count of felony elder abuse with infliction of great bodily injuries, which carries a maximum sentence of nine years in prison. Zachhrczuk is charged with one count of felony elder abuse, with a maximum prison sentence of four years.

Baran operated four elder-care homes in Thousand Oaks until June 3, 1998, when the state Department of Social Services revoked her licenses and relocated her clients after learning of the deaths of two people in her care.

According to the state, Baran failed to immediately notify social service officials, as required by law, of the death of resident Jack Malven, 88, of Westlake Village. The state said Baran then let Malven's 86-year-old wife, Dorothy, deteriorate until she was briefly hospitalized with a urinary tract infection, bedsores, bruising and a massive ulcer. She died two months after the couple moved into the house.

Dorothy Malven should have been in the hospital earlier, Deputy Dist. Atty. Audry Rohn said. "Basically, she was neglected. They had a duty to care for her and they did not provide adequate care."

Rohn said the woman had severe bed sores, which are caused by poor nutrition and circulation, dehydration and lack of movement.

"It takes months to develop Stage 4 sores," Rohn said. "This is not the kind of place where they have nurses. These are regular people trying to provide medical care."

Authorities earlier said that abuse did not likely play a part in Jack Malven's death.

The deaths took place at a six-bed facility operated by Baran on Boone Street. Officials shut down another of Baran's Boone Street homes, as well as homes on Kirk Avenue and Tennyson Street that she was operating.

Prosecutors decided after months of investigating the deaths not to bring charges of murder or manslaughter against Baran. Instead, they arranged a deal in which Baran, who did not acknowledge specific liability, did admit that the state had both grounds and cause to revoke her license. She also agreed to not reapply for a license for at least four years and not to work for, enter, or have any contact with any residents of an elder-care facility during the time of her suspension.

Baran's defense attorney, James Farley, was in court Wednesday on her behalf, but he said he did not know much about the case because he had just received it. He said the events happened several years ago and he was concerned that some of the witnesses may no longer be available.

"I don't know why they waited so long on this," he said.

Rohn said her office needed to do further investigations, and wanted to conduct a total history of the facility.

She said elder abuse can sometimes be difficult to detect, because elderly bodies are more fragile and can deteriorate quickly.

"It's a big red light if they are not being seen by health care professionals," she said. "They do not develop to that extreme level with health care professionals. It is a technically and medically challenging area."

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