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State Seeks to Revoke Licenses of Oakmont Assisted Living Facilities that Abandoned Residents During a Deadly Fire Storm in Santa Rosa
In a bold action that sent a badly needed message to assisted living operators throughout California, the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services initiated legal action to revoke the licenses of two assisted living facilities operated by Oakmont Senior Living and ban their administrators from managing, operating, owning or working in California assisted living facilities for the rest of their lives.
The CCLD actions are the culmination of a nearly year-long investigation involving Oakmont of Varenna and Villa Capri, neighboring assisted living facilities where the lives of hundreds of residents were endangered by deadly wildfires that erupted on the night of October 8-9, 2017. CCLD issued its findings and enforcement actions in an Accusation dated September 4, 2018.
The findings portray a shocking disregard for the lives of many residents.
At Villa Capri, four caregivers were working overnight to care for 62 residents, 25 of whom lived on its dementia unit, and 47 who were considered non-ambulatory. The staff were not trained on emergencies and could not find keys to the facility’s vehicles. A large capacity bus went unused because of it. The substitute administrator on duty did not even know the facility’s evacuation plan. Two of the staff members were physically unable to help residents evacuate. The staff evacuated some of the residents but abandoned more than 20 elderly and infirm residents and did not come back. The Accusation states “these residents would have perished when the facility burned to the ground during the fire” if family members and emergency responders had not arrived to rescue them.
According to the findings, Deborah Smith, the administrator of Villa Capri, was basically missing in action. She was notified of the crisis at Villa Capri at 11:30 pm, began driving to the facility at about 1:30 am, but never arrived. While family members were risking their lives to rescue residents, she returned home and later drove to an evacuation center at about 6 am.
Next door at Varenna, only two caregivers were on duty to care for its 228 elderly residents. The caregivers were not trained in emergency evacuations. Varenna’s administrator, Nathan Condie, arrived about 12:30 am but gave no direction to the caregivers and two maintenance staff members on evacuations. Instead, he directed them to return residents to their rooms, stating “he did not want to cause issues or make trouble” for Oakmont. Condie later left the facility with a small number of residents, and the remaining staff soon followed him. They left behind more than 70 residents, who remained asleep in their rooms as the fire storm raged nearby. In extremely dire circumstances, about 100 residents were rescued by family members and emergency responders, who had to kick down locked doors throughout the large, darkened facility as it filled with smoke.
The CCLD Accusation also charged Oakmont with “False Claims” for trying to cover-up its negligence through a dishonest public relations campaign and by lying to State investigators. Oakmont made false and misleading claims on a website it created about the role of its staff in evacuating the residents. Additionally, two of its employees lied to investigators about three residents who had been left behind during the investigation.