Crews responded to four 911 calls at a California assisted care facility where they say more than a dozen patients were left practically abandoned before they discovered the site had its license suspended and was closed, authorities said Wednesday.
Alameda County officials said that fire crews responded to emergency calls at the Valley Springs Manor care center in Castro Valley four times since the closing before finding out from unpaid workers on Saturday that it had been ordered shuttered by the state.
“They were caring for some patients and there were some questions that came up and one of the staff members at that time pointed out to them the facility had been closed since Thursday,” deputy fire chief Dave Rocha said. Rocha added that the workers showed the captain a closure sign posted on a door.
Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson has said the patients were being cared for by two unpaid staff members — a cook and a janitor — when deputies arrived. Despite the criticism on why the workers didn't notify authorities earlier that the care center was ordered closed, Nelson said two workers valiantly tried to take care of the workers for nearly three days.
“It wasn't completely terrible, but as a care home it is not what you would expect. We had some patients that certainly had not been cared for in a manner that you would expect in a care home, people that were soiled,” Nelson said. “And the guys who were still working there didn't have the ability to take care of it. It just overwhelmed them.”
Attorney Orrin Grover said Wednesday that the patients were being cared for as the facility's operators, Herminigilda “Hilda” N. Manuel and Mary Julleah N. Manuel, were making arrangements to transfer them to other sites. Grover said the remaining employees at the site, the cook and janitor in question, also works as a care giver.
“We feel like the residents were not abandoned,” Grover said.
Nelson said the department's investigation into possible elder abuse is ongoing as they plan to meet Thursday with other agencies, including a medical fraud investigator with the FBI, to see what role they may possibly play in the probe.
“This case is like an octopus, every time you go somewhere, another tentacle comes out,” Nelson said. “We're going to try get to everybody together so we're all on the same page and not doing duplicate work.”
Nelson said a 65-year-old man disappeared from the facility on Friday. Nelson said the man has gone missing several times before and returned and is not considered at-risk.
State officials said numerous violations at the care center had prompted the closure.
According to a license revocation complaint filed by the state social services department, the facility failed to hand out medications correctly and to conduct proper criminal background checks of employees. The complaint also mentioned a general lack of training among staff members and the facility being dirty and in disrepair.
“There had been a long history regarding a lack of compliance and the department reached a point where it began action to revoke the license,” California Department of Social Services spokesman Michael Weston said Monday. “The intention of the department is revoke the license and close the facility for good.”
Weston said the state had allowed the facility's operators to keep it open over the weekend despite the closure order so new housing could be found for the residents.