The nursing home abuse lawyers at Mahany Law are investigating a deadly outbreak of Candida Auris at several California nursing homes and hospitals. Records obtained in December from the California Department of Public Health have identified eight facilities, all in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. This post examines the French Park Care Center in Santa Ana, California.
Candida auris is a deadly fungus. It was first discovered in 2009. Health officials believe it came to the United States in 2015. Thus far, approximately 800 people in the U.S. have been infected. Unfortunately, most who develop the infection are dead within three months.
If there is any good news about this deadly fungal infection is that it is easy to control. Good sanitation and hygiene can usually stop the spread of the infection. That is what makes “outbreaks” of Candida Auris so frustrating. There is simply no reason for an outbreak within a healthcare facility.
Previously we informed readers about the deadly fungus called Candida Auris. Until 2009, this fungus wasn’t even known. Since it came to the United States in 2015, already over 800 people here have been infected. Over half are dead within 90 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls this deadly superbug a global health threat.
Candida Auris – a Deadly Threat in California
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call C. auris a global health threat. Scientists are racing to find a cure but there have been no breakthroughs yet. That is why the CDC calls it a superbug. The infection doesn’t respond to common anti-fungal medications and the mortality rate from an infection is usually more than 50%.
Symptoms usually begin with chills and fever. A lab test can confirm the infection.
Those with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the disease. This makes the problem a huge risk for nursing home residents. Once the infection reaches the heart, brain or blood, death is usually not far behind.
Until our legal challenges, the CDC and affected state health departments have not released the names of the entities with outbreaks. We know from our own cases, however, that the outbreaks usually occur in nursing homes.
Why? Because hospitals usually have better hygiene practices. Their staff is usually larger, better trained and better paid. Nursing homes are also slower to spot dangerous infections and pay for specialized lab testing.
Candida auris is spread by physical contact. Something as simple as a nurse’s aide that doesn’t wash his hands between patients or a nurse who picks up and returns a breathing mask that fell onto floor risks is all that it takes to spread this deadly infection. The good news is that with quick testing and proper sanitation, an outbreak can easily be prevented.
French Park Care Center – Santa Ana
We have confirmed from California health authorities that Candida auris has been found at the French Park Center in Santa Ana, California. French Park Care Center is a 202 bed for-profit facility operated by Bartlett Care Center LLC.
Medicare’s current rating of the facility is “much below average.”
Even after widespread press about the dangers of C. auris, an inspection report of French Park Care Center on June 4th, 2019 noted, “Based on observation, interview, and facility P&P review, the facility failed to ensure the appropriate infection control practices designed to help prevent the development and transmission of infections were implemented for one of two sampled residents.”
The inspection chose two patients, one of whom was in an isolation room. HIPAA prevents Medicare from identifying why the patient was in isolation, but given the timing, we think it was from Candid auris.
The report noted two serious sanitation violations.
First, a housekeeper was observed emptying a trash can in a contact isolation room without wearing personal protective equipment (a gown). That meant as the housekeeper continued on his or her rounds, everything touched by the housekeeper could cause of the infection’s spread.
The inspector also observed a rolled up yellow isolation gown draped on a hand rail outside a contact isolation room. Once again, anyone touching the handrail could be spreading a deadly disease.
After being confronted with the evidence, French Park Care’s director of nursing admitted the violations. The rules for patients in isolation with highly infectious diseases say that staff should don protective gear before entering the room and then remove the gear inside the room and dispose of it in a specially marked container within the room.
Placing contaminated gear on a handrail or walking from room to room after being in contact with an infectious patient defeats the entire purpose of protective gear! Unfortunately, we find these same behaviors again and again in many nursing homes.
Poor training. Poor pay. Poor supervision and not enough staff to get all the work done. These are the precursors to poor patient care and the rapid spread of deadly infections. When staff are overworked and there isn’t enough times to properly care for every patient, the first things to get jettisoned are often safety protocols.
Other Violations at French Park Care Center
Poor infection control and sanitation are both horrible and preventable violations. We believe these type violations are the primary reason why several California nursing homes have had outbreaks of deadly Candida Auris. We aren’t talking about a common cold spreading through a facility. As already noted, C. auris kills as many as 50% of the people infected and most residents in nursing homes are either elderly, suffer from compromised immune systems or both making them especially vulnerable.
We looked at all the recent inspection reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The results are horrifying and not limited to poor infection control.
In March 2019, a family reported their loved one had fractured a hip. An investigation showed French Park Care Center took 33 hours before contacting the resident’s family or physician. After getting back an X-ray report showing the “acute” fracture, it took 44 hours for the patient to be transferred to the hospital!
The failure to notify the doctor of the patient’s complaints and of the subsequent x-ray findings caused the patient to suffer needless pain and significantly delayed treatment.
There are more examples.
Another patient suffered two unwitnessed falls. As readers of this blog know, falls are almost entirely preventable with adequate staff. Regulators concluded, “Not providing adequate supervision and failure to thoroughly investigate unwitnessed falls placed the resident at higher risk for injury and additional falls.”
Sifting through the records we also found a serious bedsore case and a situation where no one responded to a resident’s call bell. While the latter may not seem like a big deal, it is usually a sign of inadequate staff. And that’s how falls, bedsores and outbreaks of Candida Auris occur.
Staffing Problems at French Park Care Center
In the last paragraph we discussed the importance of adequate staffing. That’s not just us who say that. The most recent rating from Medicare show staffing at French Park Care Center as “below average.”
All would be nursing home residents and their families are encouraged to study staffing levels while choosing a facility. Although that may sound daunting or complicated, its not.
We have cited multiple inspection reports in this post. All of that data is easily obtainable by the public. It’s free and easily found on the Medicare Compare website. A couple mouse clicks is all that it takes.
We urge anyone contemplating a skilled nursing facility for themselves or a loved one to check the facility’s Medicare rating before admission. And one of the most important things to check is the staffing rating. (While online reviews are helpful, they are easily manipulated. We recommend using Medicare’s inspection reports.)
Many nursing homes have found ways to game the staffing ratings. Magically they are at full staff during their annual inspection but can’t seem to maintain proper staffing during the rest of the year. We suggest asking residents in the facility if call buttons are being answered timely. Ask about response times on weekends, nights and holidays. This is usually a good indicator.
Special Candida Auris Alert for California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois
The CDC still hasn’t identified the nursing homes with Candida Auris. We know from our own investigation and public record demands published that the states with the most outbreaks are California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
In March 2019, the CDC reported the following number of cases (historical, not just current cases):
- New York 334
- Illinois 168
- New Jersey 116
At that time, California was listed with just four cases. That all changed earlier this year.
In August 2019, authorities acknowledged an outbreak in Southern California that affected 180 patients in nine facilities. A freedom of information request on the California Department of Public Health identified one of those facilities as French Park Care Center. The others are:
- Kindred Hospital -Westminster
- Kindred Hospital – Santa Ana
- Kindred Hospital - Brea
- Garden Park Care Center - Santa Ana
- Pacific Haven Subacute and Healthcare Center – Garden Grove
- Kindred Hospital Brea Subacute Unit
- New Orange Hills
- Regency Oaks Post Acute Care Center – Long Beach
Seeking California Nursing Home Victims of Candida Auris
We are actively seeking patients and the families of loved ones who have suffered or died because of Candida Auris. No nursing home can prevent an isolated case of a superbug. The transmission from patient to patient is easily preventable, however.
California public health officials have identified one of the facilities impacted by the Candida Auris outbreak as French Park. We certainly aren’t surprised given the inspection reports outlining poor staffing and violations of isolation protocols.
While every case is unique, we are ready to investigate outbreak cases anywhere in California and the nation. If the infection can likely be traced to poor sanitation, failure to test or understaffing, you may have a claim for damages.
Damages can include pain and suffering, medical expenses, mental anguish and the loss of quality of life. Unfortunately, a flood of lobbying and special interest money into the state in 1975 resulted in the passage of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. That law caps damages for pain and suffering (non economic losses) at just $250,000 and has not been adjusted for inflation over the last 45 years!
Thankfully, California juries can still award punitive damages. (We have seen damages as high $30 million in nursing home wrongful death cases.)
People go to nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to either get better or spend their final years in reasonable comfort. They don’t go to die from something easily preventable.
For more information, we urge family members to visit our nursing home abuse and Candida Auris claims pages. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone at 833-201-1555. There is no obligation and we never charge a fee unless we win.
We are a nationwide boutique law firm that considers Candida auris and other nursing home neglect cases nationwide. Our California partner counsel just happens to be located in Newport Beach, the epicenter of California’s C. auris outbreak.
Special Information for California Healthcare Workers
Are you a healthcare professional working in a nursing home? We always appreciate a head’s up on unsafe conditions, stage 3 and 4 bedsores and outbreaks of Candida Auris. Sometimes we may be able to help you collect a cash whistleblower reward. Mostly, however, we use the information to expose the wrongdoing and protect patients. (And we won’t use your name.) Our contact information is above.