Sacramento caregiver arrested in death of 88-year-old

Commentary by Sam Spital, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Professional & Occupational Licensing Attorney:

“On February 13, 2013, the Modesto Bee newspaper and electronic edition published an article in which Silvia Cata, the 52 year old owner of a long-term nursing care facility, Super Home Care, in Sacramento, was arrested for multiple criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter and felony elder abuse against Georgia Holzmeister, an 88 year old patient who was suffering from Dementia that died as a result of reckless disregard of the basic duties in caring for patients. It was revealed that the victim suffered from blackened, Stage IV pressure sores on her buttocks causing sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when any part of one’s body develops a toxic and severe response to bacteria or other germs. These are more commonly called pressure sores that form when patients are allowed to lie in one position for extended periods of time or simply not given the proper attention that requires their body to be frequently rotated while confined to bed.

It is an elementary principal of nursing care that patients should not be permitted to lie in bed for any extended length of time without being taken out of bed, taken to the bathroom, use walkers or wheelchairs if not ambulatory,  and of course receive regular care and attention. Unfortunately, some long term care facilities operate on a very low budget due to the nominal reimbursement from Medicare and Medi-Cal; yet, this is inexcusable and the Administrators and nursing personnel have an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to place the patient above the financial remuneration they may receive. If it is not possible to make a profit and do the right thing for their patients, the facility should close its operations. In this case, the California Department of Social Services (DSS) ordered an involuntary closure pursuant to an interim suspension order according to the article.

A Deputy Attorney General will be prosecuting the case for the California Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud, and the defendant faces up to 12 years in state prison. The author of the article did not provide any details or information regarding the number and licensure of employees of the facility, the census of the facility in question, prior employment or business history of the defendant nor indicate whether contact was made with defense lawyers that handle such cases. It appears this is the first manslaughter criminal case in California that has been filed against an owner of a nursing facility. The case has been reported in countless print and electronic media due to the gravity of the situation.

The following link: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/occupations/Documents/NursingHomeAdministratorAct.pdf provides a detailed outline and summary of the Nursing Home Administrator Act and the rules and regulations that govern Administrators. No Nursing Home Administrator license or Certified Nurse Assistant license could be found by my law firm in searching the online data for Sylvia Cata, the defendant in this criminal case.  A search of the BRN and BVNPT websites also failed to show an LVN or RN license issued to Ms. Cata.

Family members will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit against the long term care facility as well as the owner, and any of the employees and personnel who were negligent and caused the deadly injuries in the case at hand. This may also include the attending physician, nurses, and anyone that may have billed Medi-Cal and Medicare (such as a physical therapist, podiatrist, occupational therapist, etc. if any of these health care providers were in attendance on one or more days in the period of time leading up to the death of Ms. Holzmeister).

Defense counsel will need to perform a thorough and exhaustive investigation including conferring with the employees of the facility; patients and family members; pharmacists and doctors; utilize forensic experts to develop a defense; and in launching an offense seek to establish compelling mitigating facts and circumstances.”

–Sam Spital