Santa Cruz County

Feds: Watsonville nursing homes "persistently and severely" overmedicated residents

Watsonville residents react to alleged elder abuse

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Federal officials have filed a complaint against the owners, operators and managers of two Watsonville nursing homes, alleging elder abuse and Medicare fraud.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag's office filed the civil False Claims Act complaint on Friday against the for-profit entities that operate the Country Villa nursing homes in Watsonville.

The complaint (click here to read it) involves the Country Villa Watsonville East Nursing Center, now known as the Watsonville Nursing Center, and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, now known as the Watsonville Post-Acute Center.

Federal officials allege the defendants submitted false claims for "materially substandard or worthless services" provided to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries residing in the two nursing homes. The complaint also alleges that between 2007 and 2012, the defendants "persistently and severely overmedicated elderly and vulnerable residents of the nursing homes."

The complaint names 16 complaint investigations where the California Department of Public Health wrote citations for poor care and overmedication. 

Current resident Kenneth Osborn said he's not surprised. 

"Years ago, back in the 1970s, they had a lot of problems here and then they straightened up but they're going back," Osborn said.

The lawsuit is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General.

The overarching management, The Arba Group, issued a statement in response to the federal complaint. 

It reads, in part: "We have read the complaint and believe the allegations are baseless.  We attempted to voluntarily present evidence to the government, to establish this reality, but they declined to receive this evidence."

The Arba Group also said it's terminated management hired under Country Villa, claiming that company managed and controlled the two facilities from 2007-2012.  

The complaint is still unsettling for those who have a loved one being cared for right now. 

"It's really sad, disheartening that another circumstance of elderly abuse is right here in our own family kind of thing," said Aaron Pol, who says his 92-year-old mother in law has been at the facility for a few months now. 

Pol said he's not surprised to hear the company is being accused of fraud.      

"I mean we've also seen how through her breakdown of what she's getting and what's going on there -  we've questioned some of that stuff ourselves," Pol said.

The company wouldn't say if employees who worked from 2007-2012 still work at the current facilities.

If you believe a loved one is the victim of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a nursing home, you can report it to the California Long-term-Care Ombudsman by phone at 800-231-4024 or online. You can also contact your local California Department of Public Health, your local adult protective services office, and/or the police.

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