Kingston “hell on earth” resident says; health officials fear more COVID-19 deaths

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By: Alex Fisher, KGET NBC 17, June 19 2020

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — There is an active threat in some of our local nursing homes. The problem is magnified for Bakersfield’s Kingston Healthcare Center where COVID-19 is spreading out of control. It is the epicenter of the outbreak in Kern County and things are only getting worse.

“For me, it’s been hell on earth,” said Lisa Bennink. She’s a resident at Kingston Healthcare Center and was diagnosed with coronavirus. “Management did not act quickly enough.”

The situation is tragic and very concerning. Local health officials fear more people could die from the virus as it continues to spread. Over the last month, Kern County Public Health director Matt Constantine has expressed his frustration with the facility saying staff did not do enough to mitigate the outbreak.

“Basic disease control procedures are not being enforced,” Constantine said.

“It is awful here. I don’t feel good at all,” said Jennifer Meyers, 86, who lives at Kingston. “I was a Christian when I came here but I slowly, since I couldn’t get anything done by being nice, I started to lose my temper and losing self control. I started turning into an angry person.”

Meyers says she was also diagnosed with coronavirus and recovering at the facility.

There are 19 skilled nursing facilities in Kern County. All are run by the California Department of Public Health. Kingston has 184 beds making it the largest in the county.

Kingston’s website says the facility focuses on “the unique needs” of the residents and “ensures they have a safe, clean and comfortable environment.” Public records show otherwise. We found years of abuse and neglect have been reported.

Kingston Healthcare Center is the worst rated nursing facility in Kern County, according Medicare’s ratings. Its overall score is so low, a rating of “much below average” is too generous. When comparing the nursing facility with other homes in Kern on Medicare’s website, Kingston is the only one with two visible warnings of elder abuse and poor conditions.

The latest inspection was conducted in Nov. 2019. The report highlights alarming failures and concerns that put elderly residents at risk. The California Department of Public Health’s report found 39 deficiencies inside the home. California’s average is 13.

Kingston Healthcare Center is owned by Dr. David Silver. He was a volunteer associate clinical professor in the Department of of Medicine at UCLA in 2014 and previously worked at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

We reached out to him and his team for more than two weeks. We we’re told he received our request for an interview but he never responded.

Once COVID-19 got into the facility, staff members did not have much to work with. Local health officials provided the facility with personal protective equipment far more than any other facility in Kern. Through public records, we found the county provided the facility with more than 10,000 masks, more than 1,000 gowns, nearly 700 bottles of hand sanitizer, 200 face shields and ten boxes of gloves.

At a time with extreme concern, Kingston appears to be in disarray. The troubles are far from over as the virus continues to spread.