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Lawsuit accuses Bremerton long-term care facility of sub-par care

A long-term, skilled nursing facility in Bremerton is named in a class action lawsuit filed against 15 Washington state convalescent centers.

The complaint, filed Aug. 21 in King County Superior Court by The Garcia Law Firm of Long Beach, Calif., and Stritmatter, Kessler, Whelan, Coluccio of Seattle, contends two wholly owned United States subsidiaries of Canadian-based Extendicare Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) mislead prospective residents with false advertising and failed to provide adequate care, among others.

Together, the subsidiaries — Extendicare Homes Inc. and Fir Lane Terrace Convalescent Center Inc. — own each of the 15 facilities under fire.

“Basically, we believe that Extendicare’s corporate strategy and policy is to maximize profits at the expense of the elderly and vulnerable people it claims to serve,” plaintiff attorney Stephen M. Garcia said in a written statement. “In my opinion, the Extenditure facilities in Washington are elder abuse cases waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of whose parents or grandparents are going to be the victims.”

Bremerton Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center, owned by Fir Lane Convalescent Center Inc., was specifically mentioned in the lawsuit’s allegations for being “in chronic violation of applicable rules, laws and regulations via state surveys and complaint investigations including a long and lengthy history of violating resident rights and providing substandard care to residents throughout the class period.”

Deficiencies cited by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), totaling 35 in 2006 and 2007, were mentioned as well, according to court documents.

While those deficiencies aren’t detailed in the suit, the DSHS Web site defines deficiencies as instances or situations that create “actual or potential negative outcomes for residents and subsequent actual or potential for harm. Outcomes include any negative effect on the resident’s physical, mental, or psychosocial well being.”

2006-07 Complaint Investigation Narrative reports supplied by DSHS detail each complaint, some being more serious than others. One complaint, leading to a citation, found the facility had not followed skin monitoring policies. A resident alleged nurses neglected ulcers on his feet which “might require further amputation” and wounds on one of his feet became infected.

A phone call to Bremerton Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center was not immediately returned.

Extendicare REIT President and CEO, Tim Lukenda, responded to the lawsuit in a written statement Aug. 28, calling the accusations “false and misleading.”

Lukenda said Garcia Law Firm has filed similar lawsuits in California and that Extendicare REIT intends to fight the charges “vigorously.”

“We intend to vigorously and successfully defend this lawsuit and discourage these lawyers from trying to recreate their California experience in Washington state,” Lukenda said. “The allegations made by these lawyers are incorrect and misleading and are clearly designed to maximize the potential recovery of attorneys’ fees rather than benefit residents.”

Through its wholly owned subsidiaries, Extendicare REIT operates 268 nursing and assisted living facilities in North America, with capacity for more than 30,000 residents. Four of its facilities were recently recognized for quality achievement, receiving the Step 1 National Quality Award, according to the Aug. 28 statement.

Along with Bremerton, the lawsuit names facilities in Auburn, Bainbridge Island, Centralia, Edmonds, Ellensburg, Olympia, Port Angeles, Shelton, Spokane and Vancouver.

Those facilities, according to the suit, surpassed the statewide average of nine citations for deficiencies since 2004.

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