Family files legal complaint against Valley Convalescent Hospital

Valley Convalescent Hospital.jpg

The family of the late Robert Hopkins on Thursday packed into a conference room at Bakersfield law firm Chain Cohn Stiles to announced the filing of a legal complaint against Valley Convalescent Hospital, which they blame for the death of their loved one.

What this family is trying to accomplish by filing this lawsuit today is really to improve care in this community for elders, for our parents, our grandparents," said Neil Gehlawat, the family's attorney.

Robert Hopkins was a Bakersfield High School graduate and Korean War veteran who went on to have a career in banking. In his last years, he suffered from a series of strokes and diabetes. Doctors had to amputate part of his right leg.

When he was admitted to the hospital, staff noted that Hopkins was at risk for developing bed sores as well as falling. Plans were drawn to prevent both. But now his family says he developed severe bed sores and fell nine times.

"Right away, I noticed that my husband wasn't getting the attention I thought he deserved," said Hopkins' widow, Patricia.

They say his last fall at Valley Convalescent Hospital cost him his life. They blame it on a certified nursing assistant who they say failed to raise the side rail on his bed.

"He was diagnosed with the vertebrae fracture and was eventually, under the care of hospice, taken back to Valley Convalescent on the 28th and then passed away the next day on the first of March 2017," Gelhawat said.

The state's Department of Public Health arrived after Hopkins' death and issued a $100,000 citation for the incident.

But a hospital spokesperson reached Thursday by phone downplayed the state's investigation, saying that the citation was rescinded after regulators found the hospital to be in full compliance during a recent return visit.

"Falls happen in nursing homes because of the medical conditions present in the population we serve," the spokesperson said.

He declined to discuss Hopkins' case further, noting that the company had not yet been served with the family's legal complaint.

State public health officials Thursday afternoon questioned the company's understanding of the citation, saying that the $100,000 citation has not been rescinded.

"CDPH does not “lift” a citation once it has been issued. The facility may appeal the citation and any penalties would be due once appeal rights are exhausted," the department said in a prepared statement. "When a facility does not appeal the citation, the facility may, within 30 days of the citation issuance, pay 65% of the assessed fine."

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