Contra Costa County health officials are seeking a state takeover of a troubled 47-bed Orinda nursing home hit by a Covid-19 outbreak that has so far sickened a third of its caregivers as well as 27 patients, NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit has learned.
The county has filed a complaint with state regulators, expressing concerns about the safety of patients due to short-staffing as well as its management, given the Orinda Care Center’s problematic history, sources familiar with the matter told NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit.
County Supervisor Candace Andersen said that while she is aware of past troubles at the facility, the immediate focus is getting enough staff going forward.
“Certainly there’s concern and it’s not something we regulate,” she said about the facility’s track record. She said that for now, she is encouraged by the state’s promise to help in staffing and to carry out a joint inspection with county health officials in coming days.
“How do we keep those patients safe, that’s our underlying, major concern that we have right now,” Andersen said. “How to do we best treat them?”
Officials said 23 out of 74 staff members have become ill there, along with 27 patients, including two who died. Four remain hospitalized.
Inspection records from last summer show that Orinda Care LLC, one of a network of 11 nursing homes and long term care facilities, was faulted by regulators as being understaffed. In checks over a three week period last year, inspectors found staffing was short, on average, two out of every three days surveyed.
Prior inspections at Orinda last year found other problems ranging from improper storage and handling of medications to a lack of proper training to sanitize plates and utensils – a lapse that inspectors said put residents at risk of food borne illness.
Inspectors also found workers had improperly administered residents’ antipsychotic drugs, and in one case, a mentally disabled housekeeper with a history of prior complaints sexually abused a patient with dementia. A facility spokesman, Dan Kramer, said the past problems identified by regulators at Orinda Care Center were “unacceptable but isolated” incidents.
Other state records reviewed by NBC Bay Area’s investigative unit show its owner, Crystal Solorzano, has been repeatedly blamed by the state for lapses – including nine incidents that state regulators say put patients’ health in immediate jeopardy -- and was recently denied the right to open a facility in San Jose.
In May of last year, the state sought to revoke Solorzano’s nursing home administrator’s license, although that does not bar her from continuing to own nursing homes.
The state acted, it said, given that Solorzano had submitted fake college transcripts as part of the application. Solorzano is appealing the action and disputes the state’s findings.
In denying her application to open the facility in San Jose, the state cited both the license dispute and the nine instances where patients at her facilities were allegedly put in “immediate jeopardy.”
One of the cited immediate dangers was at her Lake Merritt facility in Oakland, where documents allege that faulty wiring sparked a spot fire that burned a hole in the floor under a patient’s bed in 2017.
Kramer said the Orinda center welcomes any help offered by the state to deal with the outbreak, while saying the center has already enhanced its policies and protocols – including restricting visits, doing more screening and calling off group activities.
State health officials said in a statement that they have sent a “strike team” to the Orinda Care Center to assure infection prevention measures are in place there as well as to assist in isolating residents, assessing exposures, and assisting with staffing.