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California SNF and two staff charged with involuntary manslaughter

August 31, 2015
by Nicole Stempak
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A skilled nursing home and two staff members have been charged with involuntary manslaughter after an alleged lack of care resulting in a resident’s 2014 death.

The complaint, filed by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, alleges Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre LLC was “grossly negligent” in caring for resident James Populus. 

Charges were filed against the facility’s director of nursing, Alexiuse San Mateo, for willfully permitting Populus’ death and Consuelo Policarpio, the supervising nurse who was charged with “dependent adult abuse causing great bodily injury due to a delay in calling 911.”

AG Harris said in an issued statement: “Families who entrust loved ones to the care of a nursing home rightfully expect residents will receive the care and attention they need and that nursing homes have a legal duty to provide. We have filed criminal charges because we allege Verdugo Valley and its employees violated that trust and their legal duties in a way that resulted in a senseless, tragic and unnecessary death.”

Populus’ declining health led to severe weight loss, sepsis, pneumonia and multiple infections.

In the 14 months Populus was a resident at Verdugo Valley, 80 change of condition forms required signature by a treating physician, but none were signed. The facility named the Populus’ primary care doctor as his treating doctor from the hospital, but this doctor did not have a relationship with Populus and never visited him at Verdugo Valley.

Both San Mateo and Policarpo were arraigned Aug. 27. If found guilty, San Mateo faces up to nine years in state prison and a $10,000 fine, and Policarpio faces a maximum of seven years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Vergdugo Valley LLC faces a $10,000 fine and loss of its state or federal reimbusement.

The 138-bed skilled nursing home earned a one-star rating from Nursing Home Compare. Verdugo Valley has received three state enforcement actions this year, including one for failure to have proper maintenance throughout the building.

The nursing home is owned by Shlomo Rechnitz, whose other facilities have faced scrutiny from state and federal health regulators. The government has revoked certification from three Rechnitz nursing homes for alleged poor quality care since October.