Los Angeles healthcare operators charged with 14 COVID-19 deaths
On Tuesday, operators at a high-profile dementia care facility in Los Angeles were charged with elder abuse and other felony charges related to the death of an employee and 13 residents in the early days of the pandemic.
The Silverado Beverly Place Memory Care Community, near the Fairfax area, specializes in caring for older residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia and was the site of the March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.
An employee and residents died during the outbreak, when 45 employees and 60 residents were infected, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The operators of the facility were sued in civil court by the family of several residents and the deceased employee. The object was the subject of a 2020 Times investigation.
The facility was supposed to be closed to visitors, prosecutors said, when a patient from a New York psychiatric ward was admitted there. Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it to keep anyone out of a high-risk area like New York City, which at the time was considered the epicenter of COVID-19.
Prosecutors say the patient was not tested for coronavirus when he was admitted to the hospital and developed symptoms the next morning. But after they tested positive, they were not placed in quarantine, according to the criminal charge.
The prosecutor’s office claims that the institution’s management did not block visitors who traveled within the country or abroad for 14 days to areas where cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
“These careless decisions created conditions that unnecessarily exposed Silverado personnel and residents to serious injury and, unfortunately, death,” Dist. Atti This is stated in the statement of George Gascon.
The three managers were charged with 13 counts of felony endangering the elderly and five counts of misdemeanor resulting in death. The latest charges were brought in connection with the management of the company’s health and safety of employees. Lauren Bernard Shook, Jason Michael Russo, and Kimberly Cheryl Batrum were charged, along with Irvine-based Silverado Senior Living Management Inc.
Prosecutors say the New York City patient was admitted to Silverado Beverly Place for financial reasons.
Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a two-and-a-half-year investigation at Silverado Beverly Place, whose parent company operates several nursing facilities across the country. According to Cal/OSHA, Silverado Beverly Place was cited for violating the airborne disease standard, which is designed to protect “employees who are at increased risk of contracting certain airborne infections due to their work activities. “.
The facility listed $114,500 in proposed fines for violations, the unit said, but it appealed the fines.
Email Silverado Senior Living Management Inc. asking for comment on the allegations was not immediately resolved.
Gascon also read out the names of the 14 dead during a press conference in downtown Los Angeles. These nurses are Brittany Bruner-Ringo, Elizabeth Cohen, Joseph Manduke, Catherine Apotaker, Jake Khorsandi, Albert Sarnoff, Dolores Sarnoff, Myrna Frank, Frank Piumetti, Jay Tedeman, Luba Paz, Kay Kiddu, Richard Herman and Michael Horn.
Bruner-Ringo told her mother that the newly admitted patient was showing signs of illness – profuse sweating, a “productive” cough and a temperature close to 103 degrees, her mother told The Times.
“I said, ‘It’s definitely problematic,’” recalls Kim Bruner-Ringo, an experienced nurse in Oklahoma City.
The patient was so ill that Brittany Bruner-Ringo called 911 for an ambulance, but it was too late. In the days and weeks that followed, the virus spread throughout the facility.
According to her family, Bruner-Ringo stopped breathing on April 20, 2020 in the intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. she was 32
“Every day I just prayed that Brittany could tell her own story,” her sister Breanna Hurd said.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Alan Eisner, who is not involved in the case, said the allegations are unique because they concern decisions made by senior care facility leaders in the early days of the pandemic.
“This is a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Eisner said. “I don’t want to ignore all the people who died. But this is a high bar that prosecutors must prove and show that the institution is responsible for the death of all other patients and even a nurse.”
Jody Moore, an attorney representing seven clients who either became ill with COVID-19 or died in Silverado, said that by early 2020, the federal government had provided guidance to long-term care facilities on how to protect older residents, including screening and testing policies. .
“It doesn’t make sense to say loved ones can’t get in, private caregivers can’t get in because their paperwork says we’re putting residents at significant risk by exposing them to what can enter through the front door.” Moore said. “What they let in through the front door was someone with dollars attached. And that’s what’s really egregious misconduct here.”
Helena Apotaker received an email from the institution in the early days of the pandemic informing her that she would not be able to visit her mother Katherine. The announcement said the facility is being closed for the safety of elderly residents.
“No one was allowed in,” Apotaker told The Times. “They were going to protect our loved ones. This was their top priority. Well, not 30 days later, I think they lost their top priority.”
According to Apotaker, her mother had early stages of Alzheimer’s but was generally in good health. After her mother tested positive for COVID-19, Apotaker placed her in a hospice and was finally allowed to visit in person.
“I was in the building with my mother for a week when she died,” Apotaker said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for everyone who had to watch their parents die through a window or watch their loved ones die on FaceTime.”
Upon hearing the news that Silverado Beverly Place was under criminal investigation, Apohacker was filled with a sense of justice because it seems that people have forgotten about the pandemic and the people who have died.
“But I remember that my mother died,” she said. “The only thing I had to hold on to was the thought that maybe one day I would get justice.”
Times Staff Writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.