Saying it can’t compete financially, Country Care Convalescent Hospital in Atascadero will close at the end of October, forcing 35 patients to move out.
Dan Busby, CEO of nonprofit Pacific Christian Senior Services, which owns the care facility, says lawsuits alleging staff negligence played a small role in its decision.
“We are too small of an organization to compete in the county for nurses and residents,” he said. Patients will likely move to another facility in San Luis Obispo, he added.
Pacific Christian also operates two other facilities: Atascadero Christian Community, an assisted and independent living facility, and Bethesda House, a home for patients with severe dementia, both on Santa Rosa Road.
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Lawsuits and alleged abuse
At least three different people filed lawsuits against Pacific Christian facilities in 2015 and 2016, including two patients’ families who alleged staff negligence contributed to their deaths. All of the suits were settled out of court, and the agreements are not public.
Leo Paul Landry’s suit alleged he fell and broke his femur after Country Care staff didn’t properly attend to him. He became increasingly immobile and developed pneumonia, which led to difficulty breathing.
Staff allegedly treated the pneumonia with a morphine injection, and Landry died soon after receiving the medication, the lawsuit claimed.
Gabrielle Cohoon’s suit alleged she entered Country Care to receive treatment while recovering from a hip fracture. Staff allegedly neglected to turn and reposition her, leading to bedsores.
Eventually she was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for a urinary tract infection, dehydration and malnutrition before she died two days later, the lawsuit says.
Another lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged an Atascadero Christian Community employee destroying expired drugs gave morphine to a coworker, which led her to overdose and die.
Closing Country Care
On Wednesday, Busby said the facility’s closure had little to do with the lawsuits. He said Pacific Christian’s mission is to serve elderly residents who wouldn’t be able to pay for care elsewhere, which left Country Care without the resources it needs to provide effective 24-hour nursing.
Busby said he’d been encouraging the organization’s board to close Country Care for three years, but only managed to persuade them last year.
“It doesn’t fit our mission,” Busby said. “That’s why we began to talk about it.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which certifies Country Care to accept patients paying with federal funds — found deficiencies in care in 2016 and prohibited the facility from accepting new residents from October through January, Busby said.
Pacific Christian now plans to refocus on Atascadero Christian Community, which Busby called “our core business.” The facility has 18 independent living cottages where 25 people live and is also home to 55 residents who require a limited amount of help with daily tasks.
A 24-hour nursing presence is not needed, so the facility doesn’t require as many resources, Busby said.
He also said Pacific Christian may reopen Country Care in the future, but not as a nursing home.
“People are looking for a place to go (for senior care) and there isn’t one for them,” Busby said.