Brius administrator faces jail time in elder abuse prosecution

The embattled administrator of a Brius nursing home is standing trial this week in connection with criminal charges that he wrongfully discharged residents who were not capable of caring for themselves.

Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz has so far refused to fire Rush Melliti, the administrator of the 160-bed Rehabilitation Center of Bakersfield, who faces up to 30 months in county jail if he is convicted of all three counts of elder abuse and two counts of wrongful discharge of a nursing home resident.

State prosecutors say that in one instance, Melliti erroneously told a female nursing home resident that she owed the home money. Then, prosecutors say, he sent her to an independent living apartment even though she was unable to work or go to the bathroom without assistance. According to prosecutors, the woman was unable to get out of the transport van, and was “sent to the hospital in an ambulance where she slept in the hallway for two nights.”

Prosecutors also say that Melliti, “without legal notice or justification, discharged one man, who ended up in the hospital, where his psychological issues required that he be physically restrained.”

In another instance, prosecutors say Melliti discharged a man without notice or instructions on how to take his medications. The man was unable to care for himself and had to be taken to a different nursing home to receive treatment for a wound on his non-amputated leg, according to court papers.

State records show that Melliti makes about $150,000 per year as the administrator of the Bakersfield home. Prosecutors are asking a judge to set a bail condition prohibiting him from working at facilities where he would oversee the care of elderly and disabled individuals.

This is not the first instance in which high-ranking Brius administrators have been criminally charged in connection with the care and treatment of residents. Two years ago, state prosecutors charged the director of nursing and the nurse supervisor of Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre for failing to provide immediate care to a resident who later died at a nearby hospital.

In 2011, state prosecutors indicted Verdugo Valley’s administrator on charges of felony abuse and neglect in connection with the death of a different patient.

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