(KERO) — A lawsuit has been filed against Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living, Inc., the nation’s largest senior living operator, alleging that Brookdale ignored laws that protect patients' safety when they are discharged from a facility.
The lawsuit was filed by a coalition led by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer that includes several District Attorneys, City Attorneys, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale gave false information to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, information which CMS uses to award “star ratings” to skilled nursing facilities so that consumers can choose a quality facility. By lying to CMS, the DA's Office claims Brookdale fraudulently increased its star rating in several categories to attract prospective patients and their families. “Residents of Skilled Nursing facilities are often our mothers, our fathers, and our grandparents who are facing challenging times in their lives.
The lawsuit alleges that Brookdale failed to properly notify its patients and families of transfers and discharges. Skilled nursing facilities are required to give notice of transfer or discharge at least 30 days in advance, or as soon as practicable. Brookdale failed to timely provide this required notice to its patients, with a copy to the local ombudsmen.
Brookdale also failed to properly prepare its patients for transfer or discharge. As a result of these actions, Brookdale endangered the health of its patients and left families scrambling to find other places to care for their loved ones.
The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale misrepresented the quality of its care to the public by reporting false information to CMS. As a means of helping the public to choose a skilled nursing facility, CMS rates facilities on several quality measures on a scale of one to five stars, which are then posted to the CMS website.
The lawsuit alleges that Brookdale over-reported its nursing staffing hours to CMS, and by doing so, Brookdale was awarded undeserved four-and five-star ratings.
In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that by engaging in these unfair business practices, Brookdale violated both the Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law.
23ABC reached out to the Bakersfield Brookdale facility for comment and they sent a statement that read in part: "We are aware of this lawsuit filed today by the state of California against Brookdale as well as similar lawsuits filed or threatened against other skilled nursing providers. We categorically deny that Brookdale engaged in intentional or fraudulent conduct. We are disappointed in the allegations against the skilled nursing industry."
You can check the ratings for local skilled nursing facilities in Kern County on the Medicare website.
You can enter your location and under provider type put "nursing home" and then hit search. That will bring up a list with all the facilities and their ratings.
Right now Brookdale is reporting they have a four-star rating.
The Kern County district attorney said Brookdale is facing several fines and penalties and if they don't comply or settle they will be taking them to trial.