The Fresno Bee reported a class action lawsuit regarding short staffing at Valley Nursing Home. The lawsuit claims the obvious--that a group of for-profit nursing homes have put elderly residents at risk and skirted state law by skimping on staff to make more money. Nursing home residents say staffing problems have plagued homes operated by Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., the 10th-largest nursing home chain in the country. More than 32,000 nursing home residents are represented by the class action. They hope to improve care.
Industry and advocates for nursing-home reform are watching the case closely. It's not the first class-action case nursing homes have faced for staffing problems, but the size of the case means it could have a far-ranging effect on how nursing homes are staffed.
Millions of dollars could be at stake. In addition to seeking punitive damages, the plaintiffs are suing for statutory damages for each day the nursing homes are found out of compliance with staffing laws. The plaintiffs contend the California homes were under-staffed thousands of days over the six-year period -- 2003 to 2009 -- covered by the lawsuit. Penalties can be up to $500 per resident for each day the law was violated.
Lawyers for the nursing-home residents say they hope not only to win restitution for residents, but also to spur reforms in the industry. "We want to change the corporate culture of the for-profit nursing operators to have them start paying more attention to the nursing of the residents and less attention to shareholders," said Michael Crowley, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs.
Skilled Healthcare Group of Foothill Ranch was the nation's 10th-largest nursing home chain in 2009, based on the number of nursing beds, according to the trade journal Provider Magazine.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc.: A holding company based in Foothill Ranch. It owns 78 skilled-nursing facilities and 22 assisted-living facilities in California, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada and Iowa.
*Total nursing home beds: More than 10,500.
*Employees: More than 14,000
*Revenue in 2009: $760 million. (The company posted a loss of $133 million.)
*Chairman and CEO: Boyd W. Hendrickson. He received $1.02 million in salary and bonuses in 2009.
Sources: Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., Yahoo Finance