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State Fines San Diego Nursing Homes Over Handling Of Alleged Sexual Assaults By Caregiver

Pictured above is Avocado Post Acute in El Cajon, May 29, 2020.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Pictured above is Avocado Post Acute in El Cajon, May 29, 2020.

California regulators have fined two local nursing homes for violations relating to how they handled sexual assault allegations against a former caregiver.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) fined Parkway Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation in La Mesa $16,000.

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma

The agency said Parkway Hills did not do enough to protect a resident who accused ex-caregiver Matthew Fluckiger of raping her twice in one hour in January of last year. State regulators also said Parkway Hills lacked a policy on screening applicants for past abuse and didn’t adequately monitor inappropriate behavior by staff.

RELATED: California Considers Changing Watchdog Role Of Nursing Home Inspectors

CDPH also slapped a $2,000 fine on Avocado Post Acute nursing home in El Cajon, where Fluckiger is accused of sexually assaulting another woman in June 2019. Regulators said Avocado didn’t immediately report the woman’s accusations against Fluckiger to local authorities and that it waited too long to report its own investigative findings of the alleged incident to the state.

Fluckiger is in jail awaiting trial on charges related the alleged sexual assaults at Avocado and Parkway Hills, and a third reported attack against a woman at San Diego Post Acute in El Cajon.

The CDPH fines against Avocado and Parkway Hills follow a KPBS investigation in April that documented how state regulators allowed Fluckiger to work in area nursing homes even as they investigated him for sexual assault.

RELATED: State Authorities Allowed Alleged Sexual Predator To Job-Hop Among San Diego Area Nursing Homes

Scott Fikes, a lawyer representing one of Fluckiger’s alleged victims, said CDPH’s fines were too light to motivate the facilities to better vet job candidates and to report sexual abuse allegations to police and other authorities on time

“I can't explain the levels of the fines in either of those cases, they both seem incredibly low,” Fikes said. “The purpose of a fine is to punish the person who has performed a wrongful act and demonstrate to other people that if you perform that kind of act, there will be consequences. Sixteen thousand dollars doesn't stop anything.”

Fikes said that CDPH should at least explain its rationale for the amount of the fines.

A CDPH official declined a KPBS interview request, but said in an email that the $2,000 fine against Avocado was the highest fine amount California law allows for failing to report sexual abuse. The $16,000 fine against Parkway Hills was $4,000 short of the state maximum, the official said.

RELATED: Federal Watchdog: Abuse Allegations Not Adequately Reported In California Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees nursing homes at the federal level. That agency could impose a penalty of up to $200,000 against a nursing home for failing to report abuse within a two-hour window.

CMS but did not immediately respond to questions from KPBS on whether it has or plans to impose any penalties on Avocado and Parkway Hills.

Reported by Amita Sharma

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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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