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Charges brought in California nursing home abandonment case

It appears that the State of California and the owners of a troubled assisted living facility in Alameda County share responsibility for essentially abandoning elderly residents in 2013. The residents were left behind for several days after state officials ordered the facility closed.

The incident has led to 14 felony charges each against the former owner and the administrator of the facility, which was called Valley Springs. It also has led to questions about how state regulators handled the situation, and put residents in danger.

The owner had a history of opening nursing homes, but being forced to sell them by regulators due to resident abuse and insufficient staff levels. However, the state granted her a license to open Valley Springs in 2008, along with two other assisted living centers.

Five years later, after repeated visits by firefighters and paramedics, the state Department of Social Services had Valley Springs' license revoked. The agency cited untrained staff and failure to check staff members' criminal records.

Officials tried to find new housing for residents. When new arrangements could not be found in time, the officials made a "judgment call" to let Valley Springs stay open for several more days to have management take care of it.

Instead, the owner and administrator simply walked away, along with most of the staff. A few employees stayed behind to do what they could for the residents, several of whom were bedridden.

Fortunately, it does not appear that any residents suffered health problems as a result of the abandonment. Still, a state report about the incident criticized regulators for not taking over and addressing the patient moving issue themselves.

Nursing home and assisted living facility residents are often totally dependent on staff for basic needs, like eating, getting dressed and keeping clean. Leaving infirm, elderly residents to fend for themselves would almost certainly qualify as negligence.

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