State regulators have fined the beleaguered Motion Picture and Television Fund $7,500 for failing to prevent a serious head injury sustained by an 87-year-old resident of the charity's nursing home.
The California Department of Public Health issued a severe citation to the fund, saying the motion picture nursing home failed to follow a comprehensive plan of care for a patient who was injured while she was being transferred between her bed and wheelchair.
The incident, which occurred last May, is likely to fuel questions about the level of care that existed in the turbulent months following the fund's decision in January 2009 to shut down the nursing home and hospital.
The fund's board said that it could no longer afford to continue operating the facilities and that losses were jeopardizing other services it provides. But the fund was forced to postpone its closure plans after most residents refused to leave and mounted a campaign to keep the home afloat. Although dozens of nursing and hospital staff were laid off last year, no date has been set for the closure.
Nursing home administrators recently posted the details of the citation inside the motion picture home, which has about 54 remaining long-term-care residents.
"The citation raises concern among families that there was an atmosphere of indifference toward meeting the needs of patients and a lack of accountability," said Nancy Biederman, co-founder of Saving the Lives of Our Own, a coalition that has been fighting to keep the motion picture home open. "We hope any further reduction in staff will not compromise the needs of residents."
Fund spokesman Steve Honig said the incident happened "because an employee did not follow the proper procedure. Since then, the employee has been appropriately counseled and the resident involved in the situation is doing just fine."
Honig said it was "categorically untrue" that there had been any reduced commitment in the quality of care after the closure announcement.
"The Motion Picture and Television facility has been one of the top healthcare facilities in the state of California," he said. "There was absolutely no change in the level of care that the residents received after the announcement was made."
The incident happened May 28, when a certified nursing assistant was moving the resident, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and identified as someone who was "dependent on staff for transfers and was at risk for falls."
The resident slid out of the sling of a mechanical lift and fell to the floor, cutting her forehead so badly that the cranium was visible. She required stitches to heal a wound that was about 6 inches long. In their report, state regulators noted that the nursing assistant did not follow the fund's protocol of requiring two or more staff members to assist during such lift transfers, and continued moving the patient by himself even after her fall.
High-quality nursing homes rarely receive citations like the one the state issued against the fund, said Michael Connors, a spokesman for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit patient advocacy group.
State records dating back to 2004 do not show any other so-called Class A citations, those that involve serious injury or imminent danger of death, for the motion picture home.
"A citation like this is pretty rare," Connors said, and a "strong indication that the home is understaffed."
Honig objected to such a suggestion, saying the incident "had nothing to do with staffing issues. It had to do with an employee who did not follow proper procedures."