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Access to assisted care records difficult
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CASTRO VALLEY  (AP) — Despite a California law requiring assisted-care facility licensing reports to be easily viewable to the public, access to important background information on the facilities can be difficult to find, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Records detailing elder care home evaluations were locked behind a security checkpoint at a state Department of Social Services regional office in Oakland, and access to case files were denied over concerns about confidentiality, the Contra Costa Times reported.

A 1998 state law ordered every assisted living home to make licensing reports viewable to consumers upon request.

The newspaper requested the records after the state-ordered emergency closure of Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley on Oct. 25.

Despite multiple state inspections, 19 residents were left to be cared for by two unpaid workers.

One Valley Springs resident, 84-year-old Vernetta Nash, told the paper she had no idea of the owners’ history of fines, health violations and lawsuits.

“Things just started, one at a time, falling apart,” said Nash, who moved into the home Sept. 28 with her husband, Eddie Nash. “There was feces on the wall and on the sink, rat droppings, roaches. ... It’s just, it wasn’t right. It just wasn’t right.”

The social services department’s Community Care Licensing Division monitors about 7,500 assisted living homes in California.

According to state law, the agency is supposed to make each home’s public file “available immediately upon the request of any consumer,” but the evaluations often remain hidden from public view.

Orrin Grover, an attorney for Valley Springs’ owner, Herminigilda “Hilda” Manuel, said Sunday that his client disputed that the residents were left unattended, saying the unpaid staffers were there to assistance.

Grover said all staffers would be paid, and that Manuel hoped to have the checks to them by Nov. 10.

Former Valley Springs residents interviewed by the paper said they had no knowledge that California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform had been raising concerns over staffing and other issues at another facility owned by the Manuel family, Eden Manor in Oakland.

The group said it also had issues viewing public records about Eden and Valley Springs.

Social services department spokesman Michael Weston did not return a call or email Sunday from The Associated Press seeking comment on the availability of public records.

Weston told the Times that the agency in May began the lengthy process of shuttering two homes owned by the Manuel family, a process that gives owners a lengthy time to appeal and keep the homes open.

But state workers in September became concerned enough about Valley Springs Manor that they ordered an emergency closure within 72 hours, Weston said.