In a thunderbolt from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, two Country Villa nursing homes in Watsonville have been sued for False Claims Act violations related to the overmedication of residents, many of whom had dementia and were chemically restrained. The lawsuit essentially seeks a refund of taxpayer dollars, paid to the facilities through Medicare and Medi-Cal, because the money was spent on poor care that was “non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless services.”
The lawsuit is noteworthy for three reasons:
- the complaint lists several cases where the state Department of Public Health had found terrible care and major violations over several years and yet no real actions were taken to protect the residents from Country Villa’s overmedication practices;
- the federal government has made a major case against two nursing homes for misusing psychotropic drugs;
- the misuse described in the complaint (“as chemical restraints for the convenience of management . . . without evidence of medical necessity or evidence of clinical medical need”) remains standard operating procedure for an alarming number of nursing homes in California. 78 nursing homes in California still give antipsychotics, the most powerful chemical restraint, to more than half of their residents.
If DPH had forced these two facilities to clean up their act when their bad deeds were discovered, there would be no federal case. Kudos to the U.S. Attorney for having California’s back.