Brius has been hit with 15 class action lawsuits accusing the nursing home conglomerate of systemically understaffing its nursing homes to maximize profits, while delivering substandard care to thousands of elderly residents.
“These lawsuits are an effort on behalf of these vulnerable citizens to ensure that their needs are met,” Attorney Stephen Garcia told the Eureka Times-Standard. Garcia’s law firm and The Arns Law Firm in San Francisco allege that Brius homes across California misled potential residents about their compliance with staffing requirements.
In a statement to the Marin Independent Journal, Jill Basinger, a spokeswoman for Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz, claimed that Brius homes “not only maintain” minimum staffing requirements, “they even exceed them.”
However, Brius has been cited multiple times in recent years for understaffing, including at the Novato Healthcare Center and San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center, which were included in the class action lawsuits. In March, Brius caregivers from both homes, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, joined residents and their loved ones at a public forum to call on Brius to put an end to chronic understaffing.
Earlier this year, a state investigation found the 181-bed Novato facility “woefully understaffed,” forcing residents to go weeks without a shower and sit in their own excrement for hours waiting for assistance.
Last year, the California Department of Public Health fined Brius’ San Rafael facility $15,000 for violating the state’s minimum staffing laws.
There has been heightened attention to nursing home staffing after recent reports found that major skilled nursing facilities were not providing accurate data to state and federal regulators.
In June, Medicare lowered its star ratings for staffing levels in one in 11 of the nation’s nursing homes because they either had inadequate numbers of registered nurses or failed to provide payroll data that proved they had the required nursing coverage, Kaiser Health News reported.
The lawsuits allege that understaffing at Brius, which is California’s largest nursing home operator, resulted in tragic outcomes for residents.
One lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that understaffing at Brius’ Alameda Healthcare & Wellness Center contributed to the 2017 death of Cathy Campbell, a 61-year-old Stockton woman.
According to the lawsuit, Campbell, who suffered from hypertension and chronic kidney failure, developed a severe bedsore and urinary tract infection that worsened because the facility lacked sufficient staff to care for her. Her health continued to suffer after she was transferred to a second Brius home in Oakland.
Garcia, who wrote that Campbell’s needs were “flat-out ignored,” blamed the Alameda facility for failing to properly treat her in a statement to the East Bay Times. It “knew that by not elevating her to a higher level of care when the sore reached a Stage III, they were violating the law, but in the interest of profits over patients, they made a conscious choice to wrongfully deny needed medical care.”