CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Recordings of 911 calls show that two workers at a Northern California assisted care center who helped residents after the state shut it down called emergency dispatchers four times over three days but never told them that the center was closed.
Alameda County spokeswoman Aisha Knowles released the recordings on Friday.
More than a dozen patients were virtually abandoned after the state revoked the Valley Springs Manor's license on Oct. 24. Only an unpaid cook and janitor with no healthcare training stayed behind.
In the recordings, it is not clear which of the workers is speaking, but at least one can be heard reporting patients' symptoms, like trouble breathing and back pain.
In none of the calls did the worker mention that the center had been closed, though he did mention that he was calling from the facility's main office.
In one Oct. 26 exchange, an emergency dispatcher asked the worker what was wrong with the patient he was calling about.
"I haven't seen him," the worker said, "but they just told me to call 911 for him because he's looking pretty bad."
"Are you with the patient?" the dispatcher replied.
"No, I'm in the office," the worker said.
Meanwhile, California social services workers also visited the care center on Oct. 24 and 25 but apparently did nothing to curb the chaos.
Department of Social Services spokesman Michael Weston told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday (http://bit.ly/19h8OXD) that he didn't know how many state employees went to the center.
Weston said he couldn't say whether the state workers were aware residents were being cared for only by a cook and a janitor with no proper health care training.
"At this time I can't say more than what was already said, since we are still looking into it," Weston said. "The biggest thing right now is that the department is continuing to review the circumstances. The proper procedures were not followed."
Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said she couldn't understand why state officials didn't realize what was happening.
"How long were they there and why were they there if they weren't going to do anything?" she said. "If they aren't going to protect the residents, why do we even have Community Care and Licensing? ... The state should be ashamed of themselves."
State officials said numerous violations at the care center had prompted the closing.
According to a license revocation complaint filed by the Department of Social Services, the facility failed to hand out medications correctly and to conduct proper criminal background checks of employees. The complaint also mentioned a general lack of training among staff members, and the facility being dirty and in disrepair.
Unsanitary conditions and 911 calls mounted until a fire captain realized last weekend there had been no professional caregivers since state officials ordered the facility to close.
Maurice Rowland, the cook, and Miguel Alvarez, the janitor, told the Chronicle in separate interviews that they saw officials come and go from the facility as they struggled to care for the patients. Alvarez said the officials were in and out of the facility before and after the closure but never spoke to him.
Attorney Orrin Grover said Wednesday that the patients were being cared for as the facility's operators, Herminigilda "Hilda" N. Manuel and Mary Julleah N. Manuel, were making arrangements to transfer them to other sites. Grover said the janitor who remained at the site also works as a caregiver.
Meanwhile, a 65-year-old man went missing from the facility Oct. 25 and hasn't been seen since, said authorities who do not consider him at-risk.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is probing possible elder abuse charges at the facility and met Thursday with investigators from the FBI and state Department of Justice.