A Carmichael nursing home supervisor admitted she was ordered to alter medical records of a 92-year-old patient, who died after developing rotting bedsores.
The state fined a Santa Monica nursing home for claiming a resident received physical therapy five days a week. At least 28 of those sessions were documented by nurse assistants who were not at work on those days. In Los Angeles, lawyers for a woman who was severely re-injured at a convalescent home discovered that nonexistent nurses made entries in her chart.
All that was detailed by The Sacramento Bee’s Marjie Lundstrom in 2011. Now, after failed legislative attempts in past years, Gov. Jerry Brown can correct this inequity by signing Assembly Bill 859 by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton. The bill would help expose and thus discourage what was, until Lundstrom came along, a largely untold story of falsification of patient records in nursing homes.
Under a 1991 law, lawyers must prove to jurors by “clear and convincing” evidence that records were altered. Eggman’s bill, backed by CAHNR, and plaintiff’s lawyers and the Peck Law Group, APC would ease the standard to a “preponderance of evidence”.
A legislative staff report on Eggman’s bill cited the case of Billie Underwood, a former minister. She died in a skilled nursing center in Stockton after the facility failed to change her bandages and tissue grew around them. The facility’s records had claimed the wound was cleaned daily.
That same staff report cited a 90-year-old woman who died after walking out of an alarmed door and falling. If staff members looked for her, they might have seen her crawling on the ground with fractured face bones. The facility tried to hide the circumstances of her death by destroying a video and written records.
Opponents of the legislation are formidable: The California Chamber of Commerce, the nursing home industry, insurance companies, the Civil Justice Association of California, which seeks to curtail the right to sue, and defenders of California’s limits on medical malpractice litigation. Their opposition is understandable.
“Fear of costly lawsuits has driven some nursing home administrators to re-create medical records to hide neglectful care,” Lundstrom wrote six years ago. But there’s an easy fix: Don’t neglect or abuse patients, and if something bad happens, don’t make matters worse by covering it up.
The vast majority of California’s 1,200 nursing homes do well by their clients and if they make a mistake, they own up to it, many of them do not and must be held accountable.