Tag Archives: San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center

Brius accused of understaffing nursing homes at public hearing

California’s largest nursing home company could be facing a campaign to wrest control of its two Marin County homes after workers, residents and the families of residents testified that both homes are chronically understaffed and under-resourced.

“Given what we’ve heard, we feel they’re bad actors,” said Matt Myres, who chaired a Workers’ Rights Board hearing March 4 to look into the homes operated by Brius Healthcare.

The six-member board, convened by North Bay Jobs with Justice, issued several preliminary recommendations, including:

  • Increasing staffing
  • Raising caregiver wages to at least $15 an hour
  • Ensuring that caregivers have reliable schedules to reduce worker turnover

Final recommendations, expected to be released within a few weeks, will also consider how to go about bringing in a new operator for the nursing homes.

“We know that the community here needs the facilities for folks to receive good quality patient care,” Myres said. “But we also would like to see Brius’ license rescinded.”

WRB 2/4/18
Stanton Richardson talks about finding his father dangling from his bed at the understaffed Novato Healthcare Center.

Brius, which controls 1 in 14 nursing home beds across California, and 1 in 5 beds in Marin County, already finds itself squarely in the crosshairs of state officials.

The California State Auditor is reviewing the company’s dealings with dozens of other companies controlled by its owner, Shlomo Rechnitz. The California Department of Public Health has blocked Brius from taking over six nursing homes since 2014, citing its dismal patient care record. And former Attorney General Kamala Harris moved to block the company from taking over 19 additional homes, writing that Rechnitz was “a serial violator” of nursing home rules.

The situation is already dire in Marin County where Brius controls Novato Healthcare Center and San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center, whose employees are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Both homes have been cited by state regulators for understaffing over the past year. During the hearing, residents and their loved ones said that both homes often rely on temporary caregivers who don’t have the same dedication as full-time staff.WRB 2/4/18


Ian Minto, the resident council president at the 181-bed Novato home, said he recently fell in the bathroom and needed more than an hour to pull himself up after no one responded to his cries for help.

When he later explained what had happened to a temporary nurse on duty, “She never looked up from her phone,” he said.

The actual employees do care about the patients,” Minto added. “They have a sense of humor. You can tell they are trying to do their best even though they are overworked and understaffed.”

He added, “I think things in Novato are only going to get better if management comes in touch with what employees need, which are better pay and benefits.”

Stanton Richardson testified that when he came to visit his father one afternoon, he found him tangled in his bed unable to help himself, while temporary staffers had neglected to check on him.

Richardson said the Novato facility, where annual staff turnover has topped 30 percent in recent years, was desperately in need of more caregivers earning enough money to keep them in their jobs.

“You may have two staff members caring for 15 to 20 people and they are overwhelmed,” he said. “I see it in their faces. They are very tired.”

Maria Martinez, a former nursing assistant at Brius’ home in San Rafael, said understaffing prevented her and other caregivers from giving patients the help they needed.

“A lot of times I had patients who were depressed and they were asking for their family, but I couldn’t sit down or hold their hands and talk to them because there was no time,” she said.

Martinez added that with 15 residents to care for, things inevitably fell through the cracks. “A lot of times we didn’t have time to brush their teeth … or wash their faces,” she said.

WRB 2/4/18

Bernice Dominguez, a housekeeper in Novato, testified that she sometimes was asked to check on patients even though she wasn’t credentialed to do that work. “It’s really very hard to listen to the cries of patients who need help,” said Dominguez, who makes $11.58 an hour after working at the facility for 15 years.

Rather than taking steps to keep long-term workers, Brius appears to be trying to oust them. The company recently changed workers’ schedules, preventing them from having the same days off every week. The constantly changing “floating” schedule makes it hard for people who have second jobs and families, said Benjamin Maldanado, a housekeeper in San Rafael.

“They not only broke their word to us,” Maldando said of Brius, “they are making us break our commitments to our families.”

The workers were supported by State Sen Mike McGuire, a Democrat from Healdsburg, who issued a statement saying that “Brius uses its patients as pawns” and that “quality is not part of its business model.”

Brius failed to present testimony at the hearing despite the panel’s invitation.

In speaking for the board, Myres said it was clear Brius needed to restore consistent schedules for its caregivers and boost their wages.

“Raising wages serves the interest of both care facilities since it would reduce employee turnover, prevent understaffing, save money by not having to retrain as many employees, and save on recruitment of new employees,” Myres said. “Most importantly it would improve patient care.”


Another Brius home cited for poor patient care, expired food

A Brius home in the heart of Silicon Valley has been cited by state regulators for serving expired food and failing to properly care for one resident who suffered a severe pressure sore and another whose frequent falls resulted in a broken collar bone.

The California Department of Public Health’s annual inspection of the Cupertino Healthcare and Wellness Center earlier this year resulted in two Class B citations.

One citation concerns the care provided to a man admitted last September who suffered from dementia. Investigators found the facility failed to update a tool used to predict his risk of developing pressure ulcers. The patient ultimately developed an ulcer that measured roughly 5 centimeters in diameter and leaked a yellowish discharge on his bed linens.

The other citation involved a resident who suffered from dementia and frequent seizures. Despite knowing that she was a fall risk, the home’s administrators failed to provide her adequate assistance, which contributed to several falls including one that resulted in a broken collarbone.

The director of nursing acknowledged to investigators that the facility should have done more to prevent falls and provided therapy for the resident. The administrator also acknowledged that the resident could not reach her call light to request help and that there was no floor mat in her room to soften the impact of a fall from her bed.

Investigators also found that the home’s refrigerator was stocked with expired food.

These items included:

  • Cooked chicken
  • A desert tray
  • Pork sausage
  • A pitcher of apple juice
  • A pudding bowl
  • A tray of gelatin

Furthermore, most food items in the freezer and pantry did not have expiration dates, which an administrator acknowledged violated the facility’s rules. Cupertino is not the first Brius home to have been found serving expired food. An inspection of the San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center two years ago turned up expired food in the kitchen pantry including “thickened apple juice.”

Not surprisingly, residents complained about the food quality in Cupertino.

One resident said the food “tasted bad and was always served cold,” investigators wrote. Another resident said the food was so bad she had to ask a relative to bring in food.

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Brius workers fight back against under-staffing

Caregivers at two Brius-operated nursing homes in Marin County sent a message to CEO Shlomo Rechnitz that he must stop under-staffing his homes and start treating his employees and patients with dignity.

More than 30 caregivers and their allies picketed Sunday outside the San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center. Patients and nearby residents thanked workers for taking a stand, and Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly manned the picket line along with representatives of the Marin Association of Public Employees.

San Rafael caregivers, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have gone more than three years without a contract. During that period state regulators have cited the facility for stocking expired food, admitting residents during a Norovirus outbreak and supplying so few towels and wash cloths that caregivers have had to dry patients with paper towels and bed linens.

Nevertheless, Brius’ recent “last, best and final offer” included cuts to dental benefits and no provisions to increase staffing levels. Caregivers earlier conducted a two-day strike to protest under-staffing that jeopardized patients’ safety and care. Brius management responded by locking out workers the following day.

NUHW-represented workers at the Novato Healthcare Center took their own stand against Brius’ chronic understaffing. With state regulators expected to inspect the facility last week, they informed management in mid-April that they would not work any voluntary overtime from April 29 to May 6.

A nursing home shouldn’t depend on its employees to work extra shifts simply to meet minimum staffing levels. But we’re told that Brius had to bring in at least 20 temporary certified nursing assistants just to keep the nursing home running without its workers completing overtime shifts.

Brius even offered $165 bonuses to work overtime shifts, but workers stood firm.

Shlomo Rechnitz faces new complaints at San Rafael nursing home

One would think that Shlomo Rechnitz could afford to stock enough towels and wash cloths for the residents of his San Rafael nursing home.

Not only is Rechnitz a self-declared billionaire, but property records show that he appears to be siphoning money from the facility — and many others — by paying an inflated rent to a company that he also owns.

Yet, Rechnitz, whose firm Brius Healthcare is the largest nursing home operator in California, keeps cutting corners in San Rafael. Last year, he was cited for stocking his cupboards with expired food including “thickened apple juice.”

And, earlier this month, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cited the facility for failing “to provide enough supplies of clean towels and wash cloths.”

One staffer told an inspector that that sometimes “they use paper towels and tissues” to dry residents. Another staffer stated that when they run out of towels and wash cloths, “they have to use whatever they have … like bedsheets, gowns and pillowcases.”

While Rechnitz’s staffers were drying residents with paper towels and bedsheets, he appeared to be maximizing his profit through a rental arrangement he uses all over California.

Instead of renting the San Rafael facility directly from the property owner, Rechnitz in 2012 set up a separate company to rent it. Then he had that company sublease it to the nursing home for a much higher price.

Before Rechnitz bought the facility, the operator reported having paid the property owner an annual rent of $153,952.

But after Rechnitz bought it, he had his firm “Eretz San Rafael” initially pay the property owner an annual rent of $259,200. Then he turned around and had that company  sublease the property to his nursing home for $388,800.

As you can see, Rechnitz signed for both companies.

What happened to the $129,600 in profit that Rechnitz’s firm “Eretz” pocketed in the exchange — and the money it keeps pocketing year-after-year?

We’d like to hear Rechnitz explain how it doesn’t end up in his pocket – and why he can’t find the money to pay for enough towels and wash cloths.

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