Nursing home news

On the heels of a civil settlement that saw SunBridge Care Center spending $2 million to implement and monitor care reforms, the chain’s Chico nursing home has now been cited and fined $80,000 by the state after a resident died there.

The Oct. 24 fine stemmed from the case of an 80-year-old man who was a resident at the Chico Creek Care and Rehabilitation Center, relates the California Health and Human Services Agency’s citation notice, which was forwarded to us by San Francisco’s California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Last December, the citation states, the man was admitted with a record of very low food and liquid intake. A month later, family members noticed something was wrong and the man was transferred to a hospital, where he died four days later of respiratory failure due to sepsis.

The state agency found that, in violation of patient care rules, the facility failed to continually assess the patient’s fluid needs and provide fluids, which “resulted in dehydration.” The man was weak, and his hands were too crippled for him to grasp a cup, the report stated, but help wasn’t adequately provided. The dehydration caused the progression of sepsis, and the man died.

The Albuquerque-based chain’s spokeswoman, Deborah Hileman, said, “We don’t agree with the [state’s] conclusion and we will be appealing the fine.” Local representatives are not allowed to comment.

The earlier civil settlement, negotiated by Attorney General Bill Lockyer, was reached after two Burlingame residents of a nursing home that lacked air-conditioning died during a July 2000 heat wave. In that case, SunBridge, which owns 250 facilities, admitted unintentional wrongdoing.

The fix was in

There’s been little coverage in the mainstream media, but the alternative press continues to follow the case of Archer Daniels Midland—you know, “supermarket to the world"— and I caught a particularly good segment last week on Public Radio International.

You see, while ADM boasts on its Web site that a top ethical goal is relieving world hunger, it hasn’t been quite that gracious about following antitrust laws.

In 1996, the company was fined $200 million—the largest criminal antitrust fine ever—and later three executives were sent to prison after it was found that ADM had conspired with Japanese “competitors” to fix the price on the amino acid lycine, a livestock feed additive, and citric acid, a flavor additive and preservative. The Department of Justice figured farmers paid $165 to $180 million more for lysine than they should have during a three-year period, costs that were passed along to consumers.

The FBI pursued the case with the help of an informant—who, embarrassedly enough, was later charged with embezzling $9 million from ADM—and that man went to board meetings wearing a wire for two years. He taped a company leader saying that the competitors, not the consumers, were their friends.

The DOJ hopes the investigations sent a message to other companies that might be considering getting around the law to make a buck at the expense of consumers. Archer Daniels Midland still underwrites PBS and National Public Radio, and every time I hear "ADM" I think of the price-fixing conspiracy. That’s, I believe, an even stronger message.