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Nursing home with record of abuse

 September 8, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Erik Anderson, in for Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, September 8th.

An El Cajon nursing home remains open despite a record of abuse. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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It’s been an extremely hot week, but this weekend we might see a turn of events… some wind and rain. San Diego County officials yesterday cautioned that a hurricane off the coast of Mexico could bring high winds and heavy rain to the county. Forecasters say Hurricane Kay will not directly hit San Diego County, but could still bring high winds today and potentially a lot of rain starting tomorrow. The county and Cal Fire will be providing free bags and sand at fire stations for people living in the unincorporated areas.

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A U-C-L-A climate scientist says the intensity and duration of heat waves like the ones we’re experiencing this week are linked to climate change. Global warming driven by humans burning fossil fuels has changed the state’s climate, and pushing up temperatures an additional three to five degrees during typical heat waves.

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The founder of San Diego-based website ‘Girls-Do-Porn-dot-com’ has been placed on the F-B-I's Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List. Michael James Pratt, a New Zealand citizen, is accused of running the now-deactivated website. Prosecutors allege that he and others coerced hundreds of women to appear in pornographic videos under false pretenses. Pratt is charged with 19 felonies, including production of child pornography, sex trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal authorities also announced yesterday that the reward for information leading to his arrest is now 100-thousand-dollars.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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An El Cajon nursing home had such a long record of poor care and abuse that federal officials moved to decertify it in April. But then, to the shock of advocates, they rescinded their order. In the first of a two-part series, KPBS Investigative reporter Amita Sharma examines the evidence against the nursing home and why it remains open. Heads up….This story contains graphic descriptions that some audience members may find disturbing.

At 2 am on February 7, a quadraplegic woman slept in a chair covered by a sheet at Avocado Post Acute nursing home in El Cajon… while a man stood over her with his hands under that sheet. The incident is one of three sexual assaults that the California Department of Public Health substantiated at the 256-bed facility so far this year. And, since 2019, state records reveal 628 overall complaints filed against Avocado. That’s four times the state average for facilities with at least 100 beds. (Zoom down to where it shows complaints/deficiencies and citations for Avocado for the last four years “It is an unsafe place for residents to be. Tony Chicotel is a lawyer with the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He’s familiar with the state’s investigations into Avocado. “It’s a dangerous nursing home and one that I would be reluctant to send anybody, let alone friends or family.” Here are some of the most egregious examples, taken mainly from state regulators’ reports with support from police investigations. A 90 year old man was allegedly assaulted and later died. 71-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by a caregiver during a diaper change. A resident with strict swallowing precautions choked to death after she was left to eat her lunch alone. And a caregiver allegedly slammed a resident into a wall. “It is quite straightforward.” That’s Scott Fikes, an attorney who has sued Avocado for negligent care, discussing the state regulators’ findings. “There's a long evidentiary record that shows they are unable or unwilling, whatever it may be, to provide the level and quality of care that Medicare and Medicaid demands in any other industry."Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, seemed to agree. The agency stated in April that it was terminating Avocado’s contract with CMS to operate as a skilled nursing home, citing its failure to protect residents from “abuse, neglect and exploitation.” But weeks later, CMS reversed course and rescinded plans to decertify Avocado. A CMS spokesperson  said in an emailed statement that the termination order was pulled because  Avocado had “returned to substantial compliance with the Medicare requirements.” Yet, just two months after regulators canceled the decertification, state investigators found 13 federal deficiencies at  Avocado. When questioned about the new findings, a CMS spokesperson again told KPBS that Avocado returned to “substantial compliance” in July. Avocado did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Also, since April, state investigators have substantiated 11 abuse cases of residents and one quality-of-care violation. Chicotel says keeping Avocado open illustrates how regulators abdicate their duty to protect residents in favor of shielding for-profit nursing homes.“We have the rules and they look great on paper and they give people confidence that the care might be good, and then we don't enforce them. So they, over time, just become meaningless.”  As Avocado racked up complaints over the last years, its profits grew 72 percent from $3.2 million in 2017 to $5.5 million in 2020, according to financial disclosures. (Ernie Tosh Avocado Finances) “....That is a fantastic revenue stream.”  Ernie Tosh is an expert on senior care finances.  He says given Avocado’s compliance record, it would be beneficial to have a third party monitor. (Ernie Tosh Avocado Finances)“And if that doesn’t work, you should also be fining them substantially. Tomorrow, part 2 of our series: Avocado allegedly allowed a man with a severe mental illness and a history of violence to share a room with another resident. The result was deadly. Amita Sharma, KPBS News.

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The F-D-A is clearing red tape to allow for increasing testing capacity for monkeypox.. The virus causes painful rashes and sores and has so far infected 321 San Diegans.. KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman spoke with a local doctor whose monkeypox advice is going viral.

San Diego-based Gastroenterologist Dr. Carlton Thomas has racked up millions of views on tiktok and instagram giving out information about monkeypox symptoms, vaccines and how the virus spreads– Dr. Carlton Thomas, San Diego Gastroenterologist Messaging matters and when it comes from someone like me who is a gay man, who is sex positive i think when it comes from me it’s easier to listen to than some crusty 75 year old guy with a tie Thomas has been using social media to get the word out when vaccine appointments become available.. Personally, he’d like to see more data– data about vaccine effectiveness, about antibody levels and about whether or not people are getting infected after those two shots MH KPBS News.

In other health related news in the county….

The San Diego County health department has just gotten its shipment of the new COVID-19 booster. KPBS reporter John Carroll has an update.

The new booster combines elements of the original vaccine along with protection against the currently circulating versions of Omicron.  Late Wednesday afternoon, the county told us their first shipment of the new vaccine has arrived.  It will be available tomorrow at some pharmacies and health care providers.  It will also be available at the Chula Vista South Region Live Well Center, the East Public Health Center in El Cajon and the Central Region Public Health Center in San Diego.  As to who should get them and when… the spokesperson says anyone over 12 for Pfizer, 18 and older for Moderna… and who has had at least two vaccines with the last one coming at least two months ago… The spokesperson says  those with comorbidities should check with their health provider and then schedule a booster.  San Diego County moved into the low risk category for Covid last week.  It’s hoped that with increasing immunity and the new boosters, we can stay “low risk.”  JC, KPBS News.

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The surging heatwave has left several San Diego County school districts scrambling to install portable air conditioning units – or repairing units that have broken down at the worst time.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez has more.

San Diego Unified has distributed 120 portable AC units to campuses across the district. 60 more air conditioners are on the way. Chantel Sanchez has a son in first grade at Sherman Elementary…where the AC is back on after a brief breakdown last week. “it’s very hot…obviously the temps right now…and in the classroom with lots of people…makes it feel hotter.” The Poway Unified School District will continue early dismissal for students at 3 campuses the rest of the week. The air conditioning is still being repaired at Midland Elementary, Bernardo Heights Middle School and Rancho Bernardo High School. Portable AC units have been installed to help students cope with the heat, there too. MGP KPBS News

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Coming up.... A couple thousand new trees are being planted across San Diego County. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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We all know it's cooler under the shade of a tree. But many neighborhoods have a noticeable shortage of them. That changed a little bit yesterday (Wednesday) at one park in Vista.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne has the story.

RainTree Park in Vista didn’t get any rain but it did get a shipment of new trees. Its part of a Cal Fire grant to plant 2000 trees in San Diego County. The city of Vista got 200 of them. Council member Corinna Contrearas joined volunteers in getting some trees in the ground. This area in Vista desperately needs trees. Were going through a heat wave, moving forward its only gonna get hotter and what trees do, not only do they provide a beautiful scene for everybody to enjoy but they provide shade. She hopes this is only the beginning because more trees are needed in the city, especially near public transportation stations. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would require the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to complete a statewide plan to increase tree canopy cover in urban areas by 20-25. TT KPBS News 

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As grape harvest season returns, so does Escondido’s Grape Festival. Dating back to the early 19-hundreds, the Grape Festival celebrates Escondido’s rich agricultural roots. And this year’s festival is Saturday. It will feature a range of entertainment, food and activities as part of what the Escondido History Center is calling the city’s “one-day history lesson.”

Samantha Nawrocki is the event coordinator for the festival. She joined KPBS’s Jade Hindmon to talk about the history of the event and what people can expect this weekend.

What are the origins of the grape festival?

And the festival became very popular in those early years, didn’t it?

What makes Escondido a special place for grape growing?

OK now to this year’s festival- what is on tap?

And there will be some grape stomping too, right? Can you tell us about grape stomping and what the purpose of it is?

What are you hoping people will learn about Escondido history by attending this event?

And where and when is this year’s festival?

Where can people go to learn more about it? 

That was Samantha Nawrocki, the event coordinator for the Escondido Grape Day Festival, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host, Jade Hindmon.

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Erik Anderson. Debbie Cruz will be back tomorrow.Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Details on why an El Cajon nursing home remains open after a long record of poor care and abuse. In other news, a local doctor’s monkeypox advice is going viral. Plus, how schools without AC units are dealing with the heat wave.