Morning Report: A Deadly Lack of Medical Expertise in Senior Care Homes - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: A Deadly Lack of Medical Expertise in Senior Care Homes

Walter Anderson contracted COVID-19 while living at Elmcroft of La Mesa. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Assisted living facilities have been severely affected by the coronavirus, as they bring together both senior citizens and an essential workforce. Yet only about half, nationally, have a registered nurse on staff, while on-site doctors and facility medical directors are less common. 

For that reason, VOSD contributor Jared Whitlock reports, it’s more likely that a resident’s change in condition will go undetected. One elder law attorney put it this way: a nonexistent medical staff is often ill-equipped to deal with resident falls, let alone a pandemic that requires strict infection control.

The industry has distinguished itself in its marketing efforts for its home-like feel. There are nearly 600 assisted living facilities, some of which cater to residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Over time, though, the assisted living facilities have accepted frailer residents. But they’re still not required to have medical directors or round-the-clock licensed nurses.

One the major sticking points: cost. “Facilities are largely private pay, and so more medical staffing could increase prices — or reduce profits,” Whitlock writes. 

101 Ash, Chapter $14.4 Million

The downtown high rise that we all refer to by its shorthand address, 101 Ash St., has been the subject of intense scrutiny since city employees were evacuated in January. 

In her latest dispatch from the annals of bad real estate deals, Lisa Halverstadt reports that the city can’t fully account for all of the costs that went into the building, nearly four years after a lease-to-own arrangement was struck with middleman seller Cisterra Development. 

Emails obtained by Halverstadt show that Cisterra reported making a 5 percent profit on the deal, which equated to nearly $4.6 million. The development company also detailed some of its expected costs in exchanges with the city. But about $9.5 million still remains unclear — and Cisterra won’t say more to either VOSD or the city.

Officials were under the impression Cisterra had paid $72.4 million for the building before turning around and selling it to San Diego. More recently, though, officials have come to realize that the acquisition cost was nearly $20 million more than that — and they never got a full accounting for $14.4 million of those costs. 

That reality led the city’s chief financial officer earlier this month to write a letter to Cisterra demanding a full breakdown of fees, profit and other costs baked into that $14.4 million.

Salas, Sotelo-Solis Rescind Barrios Endorsements

Two high-profile Latina politicians who’d supported Kelvin Barrios, a candidate for City Council District 9, pulled their endorsements this weekend following a series of reports about potential ethics violations.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas wrote in a statement that “it is especially critical in these times that people believe that those who run for elective office are honest and trusted by the people they serve.”

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis similarly announced that she’d decided to pull her support following the latest revelations.

Last week, Andrew Keatts and Jesse Marx revealed that Barrios had discussed the Pure Water project with Laborers 89 when he was still a city staffer, not long before he left to work for the labor group, possibly violating city ethics rules.It was only the latest in a string of potential and confirmed violations.

Guess We’ll Settle That Wildfire Prevention Plan Next Year

California Public Advocate’s Office, an independent watchdog, said San Diego Gas & Electric’s wildfire mitigation plan was flawed because the company hadn’t provided credible science to go with it. Essentially, the company wanted to clear a space of 25 feet around utility lines but the state warned it might allow more fire-prone grasses and non-native species to grow underneath.

MacKenzie Elmer wrote about the dispute last month and reported Friday that regulators at California Public Utility Commissioners have given SDG&E access to billions in taxpayer-supported wildfire insurance without resolving the public advocate’s concerns. 

The public advocate argued that the company should be sanctioned. Instead, the CPUC told SDG&E to address the issue next year when the company turns in a new wildfire mitigation plan. 

Lawmakers Working on Police Reform Got Police Donations

All 12 of the state legislators, including two from San Diego, who will take part in a special session this fall on police reforms have accepted donations from police unions over the last two years. Many of those same legislators, however, have established records of championing and voting in favor of previous police reforms. 

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, for instance, wrote AB 392, which changed the standards guiding police use of deadly force. Police unions dropped their opposition after Weber agreed to certain changes. 

Last week, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who’s also on the select committee, wrote that she was hoping to tackle “a badly needed police decertification program that is fair and properly aligns state and local laws.”

While we’re talking about Sacramento … Pillars of the Community, a social justice group out of San Diego, is suing the state attorney general and Department of Justice to block the ongoing use of a gang database. Getting into the database doesn’t require a criminal record. 

The lawsuit contends that mandatory changes intended to improve the database haven’t taken place yet and that the system “lacks the minimum accountability measures required by the rule of law.” Those changes stemmed from an audit requested by Weber in 2016. 

Politifest Is One Day Away

Our five-day virtual public affairs summit kicks off Tuesday at 5 p.m. with a reception, followed by a (free) session. Sara Libby and Jesse Marx will provide an overview of state ballot measures ahead of the November election. Spanish translation is available. 

If you still don’t have tickets, don’t worry. You can buy ‘em for individual sessions or for the entire event at any point this week. Register on our Politifest 2020 landing page

We’re biased, obviously, but the schedule is quite good. VOSD reporters and editors as well as our friends at KPBS, the Union-Tribune, NBC 7, CalMatters and KOGO will be hosting various panels, interviews and debates with candidates and organizers. Alain Stephens of the Trace is interviewing state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The San Diego mayoral candidates will go at it. And much more. 

The crew (sans Andy) previewed the event on the podcast, and Scott dug even deeper in this week’s Politics Report.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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