Understaffing at the facilities resulted in unnecessary amputations, the spread of diseases, and a high number of unreported sexual assault cases
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced securing a preliminary injunction against 19 California skilled nursing facilities operated under the Mariner chain (Mariner Health) for violating federal and state laws and regulations over a five-year period. The Attorney General and District Attorneys of Alameda, Los Angeles, Marin, and Santa Cruz counties allege that Mariner Health violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law by understaffing its facilities and subjecting its patients to negligent care while inflating their skilled nursing facilities advertised ratings to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The injunction was granted by the Alameda County Superior Court on Friday, January 6, and allows for oversight of five of Mariner Health’s skilled nursing facilities to ensure compliance with state staffing laws. The injunction also allows for the oversight of 19 of Mariner Health’s facilities to ensure compliance with federal and state discharge regulations.
“Mariner and its skilled nursing facilities violated both the law and the trust of our communities by failing to protect the safety and well-being of its residents,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Mariner understaffed its facilities and left residents vulnerable to assault, illness, and harm. Today’s preliminary injunction will put a stop to this unacceptable behavior, and put in place an independent monitor who will ensure patient safety. When it comes to California’s skilled nursing facilities, the well-being of patients will always be an uncompromisable priority. The California Department of Justice will step in whenever the well-being of patients is at stake.”
“It is disappointing that facilities like Mariner’s fail to protect and provide services to one of our most vulnerable groups. Our elderly population deserves the best care and they should never be neglected,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. “This injunction will make sure that residents at these facilities are given the proper care they need in a safe environment.”
“Protecting skilled nursing residents is a high priority in our statewide and local enforcement efforts,” said Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell. “We will not tolerate the abuse and neglect of vulnerable seniors and we intend to actively protect their rights.”
“This is an important first step in the process of bringing these defendants into full compliance with the laws regulating skilled nursing facilities here in Marin and statewide,” said Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli. “We look forward to getting further relief for all those patients and their families affected by all proven unlawful practices.’”
“Taking care of our elders in our state is vital,” said Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price. “My Office is committed to holding senior living facilities accountable for any illegal activity against seniors and their families who count on us to protect public safety.”
On April 8, 2021, the Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) and the District Attorneys of Alameda, Los Angeles, Marin, and Santa Cruz counties, filed a civil complaint against 19 skilled nursing facilities and their corporate management entities altogether known as Mariner Health. The complaint sought injunctive relief and claimed Mariner Health understaffed facilities leading to resident harm, unsafely discharged residents from the facilities, and, falsified staffing numbers to CMS to advertise inflated ratings. Understaffing left residents vulnerable and the inadequate care resulted in unnecessary amputations, the spread of diseases such as lice and pests among residents, and a high number of unreported sexual assault cases, among other issues. On Friday, January 6, the Alameda County Superior Court granted a motion for a preliminary injunction requiring Mariner Health to comply with laws and regulations regarding the staffing of five of its facilities and with the discharges from 19 of its facilities in order to safeguard the safety and well-being of their residents.
The California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse protects Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who defraud the Medi-Cal program as well as those who commit elder abuse. These settlements are made possible only through the coordination and collaboration of governmental agencies, as well as the critical help from whistleblowers who report incidences of abuse or Medi-Cal fraud at oag.ca.gov/dmfea/reporting.
DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from HHS under a grant award totaling $53,792,132 for federal fiscal year 2022-2023 The remaining 25% is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023.
A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here.