In the wake of Brius Healthcare threatening to shut down three of Humboldt County’s five nursing homes last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week aimed at protecting nursing home residents whose facilities face closure.
Assemblyman Jim Wood, who represents California’s North Coast region, introduced AB 275 earlier this year after working to successfully block Brius from closing the three homes. Brius, which has monopoly control of Humboldt’s skilled nursing industry, would have forced nearly 200 frail seniors to move to homes far from their families had the homes been shuttered.
“During those many months, residents and their families were on a roller coaster ride of anxiety,” Wood said in prepared statement. “It became obvious to me that new protections would have to be put in place to prevent this trauma from happening to other residents in the future.”
Wood’s bill increases the notice periods — from 30 to 60 days — that long-term care facilities are required to provide residents, their families, and state agencies when they are planning to close.
The bill also requires a resident’s personal doctor or facility medical director, if the resident doesn’t have a doctor, to provide a thorough medical and social assessment of each resident to help limit any trauma residents might face in transferring to another facility. Additionally, the legislation authorizes the California Department of Public Health to reject a facility’s relocation plan if it determines it lacks adequate protections to minimize transfer trauma.
Brius threatened to shut down the Humboldt facilities in what critics said was a ploy to boost the company’s Medicaid reimbursement rates.
After a four-month stand-off with local officials and patient allies, including the California Association for Nursing Home Reform and the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Brius CEO Shlomo Rechnitz backed down and agreed to close only one facility without forcing any residents out of the county and away from their loved ones. The conflict included street protests by nursing home residents’ family members and supporters, full-page newspaper advertisements, and extensive news coverage by television, print and radio outlets.
“Although this was an issue that directly affected a rural community I represent, this situation could occur anywhere in California where beds are limited or similar ownership situations exist,” Wood said. “So I am very pleased that this bill will become law in January.”