Local facility received no complaints

January 24, 2007 11:00 pm

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

Amid allegations of understaffing and neglect, the Addie Meedom House finds itself embroiled in controversy through association.

The assisted living and memory care facility located at 1445 Parkway Drive in Crescent City was named in a class action lawsuit earlier this month. The suit was filed against Sunwest Management Inc., a for-profit, elderly care firm that operates the Addie Meedom House.

According to the lawsuit, Sunwest deliberately understaffs its facilities to increase profits. This practice then leads to the neglect of residents at Sunwest-managed sites.

However, official complaint documents do not support this claim for for the Addie Meedom House.

"They've been in substantial compliance for a long time," said Gay Miller, an evaluator for California Community Care Licensing, which oversees residential facilities for children and adults.

By being in compliance, the Addie Meedom House either meets or exceeds elderly care expectations set by the California Department of Social Services, Miller said.

Since being licensed by the state in 2003 the Addie Meedom House has only received three allegations of deficiencies – one of which claiming the facility was understaffed.

This complaint was unfounded, according to the California Community Care Licensing's investigation report, because the Addie Meedom House operates with the same amount of staff as similar sized facilities.

The other two complaints came from residents who said they needed more assistance from staff members. The resulting investigation found these allegations were unsubstantiated.

Addie Meedom House staff were not allowed by Sunwest policy to comment on the lawsuit or how it might affect the facility. A Sunwest representative said, however, that the legal process is in too early of a stage to answer any questions surrounding implications of the lawsuit.

"Because of all the details involved in a class action lawsuit resolution, it would be really inappropriate to speculate on the outcome," said Steve Stradley, a risk manager for Sunwest. "Really, it doesn't affect Addie Meedom at this point in time.

Nor does he expect it to.

"Right now at this point in time we're very positive in being successful in defeating the class action suit," Stradley said.

The lawsuit against Sunwest claims that their facilities in California must operate under a budget approved and directed by Sunwest in order to increase profits. This leads to understaffed facilities and residents paying for services they don't receive.

This lawsuit adds to other troubles that Sunwest has had in California.

Currently, the California Department of Social Services is suing Sunwest to prevent their top seven executives from operating any sort of elder care communities in the state. Their lawsuit says these Sunwest executives "collectively and individually, chronically failed to operate, administer and supervise the residential care facility for the elderly, known as Paragon Gardens Assisted Living Community."

It was at this Mission Viejo facility where a 71-year-old man with dementia wandered away unnoticed. He was never found is is now presumed dead by the local sheriff's department.

Paragon Gardens is one of 16 Sunwest-operated elderly care facilities in California – including Addie Meedom – and one of more than 200 in the country.