Family sues Visalia nursing home after 87-year-old man dies from COVID-19

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By Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee, July 30 2020

Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia has had six patients die due to coronavirus. GOOGLE EARTH

The family of Santiago Gonzalez, an 87-year-old former resident of Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia, is suing the nursing home for wrongful death after he contracted COVID-19 and died.

The family alleges in the lawsuit, filed by their attorney Warren Paboojian, that the healthcare center failed to protect its staff, employees and residents — even as COVID-19 was gaining a foothold in Tulare County.

“The facility lacked the protection and training to take care of its patients,” Paboojian said. “And when things went awry, it was worse than what was happening in the rest of the country.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 124 residents at Redwood Springs and 71 employees have tested positive for coronavirus. Of the 124 residents, 29 have died.

Paboojian, whose clients are also alleging willful misconduct and elder abuse, said he has been contacted by members of several other families interested in suing the Visalia center.

REDWOOD SPRINGS RESPONDS

Redwood Springs officials said while they haven’t seen a copy of the lawsuit, they deny not being prepared for the pandemic.

“We remain vigilant against this cunning and deadly virus as we have for more than four months,” said Anita Hubbard, administrator of Redwood Springs Healthcare Center, in a statement.

“Like before, we continue to adhere to the practices and protocols that have been directed by the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state, and county guidance to protect the frail and vulnerable residents entrusted to our care.”

WHAT LAWSUIT ALLEGES

The lawsuit states that Gonzalez’s family members were worried his health might be in jeopardy as the highly contagious virus continued advancing into the central San Joaquin Valley during March and April.

Health experts warned that those over the age of 65 were among the groups most at risk of developing serious health problems from COVID-19.

Despite their concerns, the family was assured by staff that Gonzalez was safe and all the necessary health and safety measures were in place to protect against an infection from coronavirus

But that wasn’t the case, the lawsuit states.

The staff failed to take appropriate safety measures, including the ample distribution and use of personal protective equipment for monitoring staff, employees and residents, according to the lawsuit.

Redwood Springs also continued to allow staff members who tested positive or had infection-related symptoms to come to work, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges the management didn’t want to spend any additional money to hire more staff. And staff did not have the right disinfectant supplies to prevent the spread of the virus, the suit says.

DEATH OF SANTIAGO GONZALEZ

On April 3, Gonzalez tested positive for COVID-19. Seven days later on April 10 the center staff told the family he was fine and not running a temperature.

Later that night, Gonzalez, a former farmworker, died.

The family’s lawsuit, filed in Tulare County, doesn’t include a specific dollar amount, but seeks general damages, special damages and punitive damages.

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