Future uncertain for Modesto elderly care facility

kcarlson@modbee.comOctober 28, 2013 

JW Sundial

The state has been reviewing Sundial Palms Manor's license for alleged violations, including understaffing, inadequate food supply and failure to provide residents with a nutritious diet.

JOHN WESTBERG — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

— An office manager and staff continue to care for elderly residents of Sundial Palms Manor on McHenry Avenue in Modesto. But employees Monday said they don’t know what the future holds.

“We are up in the air,” said one employee, who asked not to be identified. “We have the state here every day. The state is not telling us anything.”

Catholic Charities’ Monica Ramos, who coordinates the elder care ombudsman program under contract with Stanislaus County, assured that staff remains on duty and state officials continue to investigate complaints at the facility. About 65 residents remain at the 808 McHenry Ave. care facility, about half of them in a unit for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Ramos said she was at Sundial Manor on Sunday, visiting with residents. “Many of them are pretty happy; others have pointed out problems,” she said. “The licensing agency is still trying to work with the owner to make corrections.”

Questions swirled around Sundial Manor after the state-ordered closure of a Bay Area facility – under the same owner – which resulted in an ugly fiasco. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, employees of Valley Manor Residential Care in Castro Valley walked out on residents late last week. The Chronicle reported about 15 residents were left alone in miserable conditions.

The California Department of Social Services took action Thursday to close the Castro Valley facility over license violations, but the agency was criticized for its oversight and monitoring of the facility closure. The Sundial Manor and Valley Manor in Castro Valley are owned by Herminigilda “Hilda” Manuel and her daughter Mary Manuel. An attempt by The Modesto Bee to reach them wasn’t successful.

In recent days, Sundial Manor has received calls from other care facilities offering to take their residents if needed, staff said.

Rosie Prado, office manager for Sundial Manor, said she doesn’t expect the same action by the state will be taken for the Modesto center. “The residents are being taken care of,” Prado said. “The people from the state are helping us.”

A spokesman from the Department of Social Services did not return two calls from The Bee on Monday.

The state has been reviewing Sundial’s license for alleged violations, including understaffing, inadequate food supply and failure to provide residents with a nutritious diet. A report from the department’s legal division said that during one visit by inspectors, only five staff members were on duty to care for 92 residents, and one caregiver was providing for the needs of 45 residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Some residents of Sundial Manor moved to other care facilities after residents and their families received letters from the state saying the license was under review. The center also has had trouble keeping staff.

An employee told a Bee reporter in September that Hilda Manuel cut workers’ pay when she purchased the facility two years ago, causing many workers to leave. Some employees have said they haven’t seen the owners for more than a year.

The 25-member staff has heard that new owners or management would be taking over, but they are waiting for the transition. Medical technician Davina Bratton said a new supervisor was trying to hire more workers and added a cook last week.

“The food has gotten better,” Bratton said. “The staffing is still low, but they are trying to work on that.”

Ramos said she believes conditions were far worse at the Castro Valley center than at Sundial Manor. “There are some problems that need attention (at Sundial Manor), but there is potential. It’s still a nice facility,” Ramos said.

Bratton said she’s confident the remaining staff will stay with residents no matter what happens. “We are not going to walk out on our residents,” Bratton said. “The people who are still here have been here for three or four years. There are times we were told we weren’t going to get paychecks, but we didn’t get mad and walk out.”

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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