HAYWARD (KPIX 5) -- The first family to threaten legal action against Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward filed a complaint against the facility Monday and are demanding answers regarding the death of a loved one.
So far in the deadly coronavirus outbreak at the Hayward nursing home, 41 residents and 25 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Of those cases, nine residents have died from the virus.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
KPIX 5 first introduced viewers to the Akrie family on Friday, telling the tragic story of how Cosell Akrie passed away at the center earlier this month while undergoing physical therapy. Now, with the support of civil rights attorney John Burris, the Akries are asking specific questions about how Gateway is being run.
They also want to make sure someone is standing up for other patients who are still receiving treatment there.
"Why didn't Gateway have masks? And if they did, why weren't they using them?" asked Scott Akrie.
That was just one of many questions Scott and his mother Dianne Akrie have regarding how Gateway continues to operate. They are calling for an investigation and filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health.
"Gateway continues to admit people and allow them to stay there. We demand that action is taken," said Akrie family attorney Adante Pointer. "There should not be one more person endangered, one more person who has to lose their life, one more family that has to go days without getting a chance to communicate with or see their loved one, only to find out that they died from something that was wholly preventable."
88-year-old Korean War veteran Costell Akrie was only supposed to stay at Gateway for physical therapy for a couple of weeks. Instead, he contracted the coronavirus during his stay and died on April 4th. None of his family members were able to speak to him the four days prior to his death.
"[He was] honest, compassionate, good and kind, and always fought for what was right for everyone, regardless of costs," said Dianne. "And this is why we are here."
Dianne said prior to March 14 -- the day the facility was placed under lockdown, when she was still able to visit Costell -- she never saw any staff members wear gloves or masks. Her attorney, John Burris, finds that incredibly worrisome for patients who are still getting treatment at Gateway.
"This is so disturbing. These kinds of numbers warrant and justify an investigation as to how this facility was operating. An investigation is warranted," said Burris. "I will say that -- if, in fact, it's true that employees were requested and compelled to work even though they had symptoms of the virus -- that's criminal conduct."
The Akries' attorneys said they plan on sending a letter to the District Attorney's Office soon in order to request a criminal investigation.
"[They] essentially handed those who are most vulnerable a death sentence," said Pointer. "That's criminal; not just an administrative investigation, but also criminal."
A California Department of Public Health (CDPH) enforcement action dashboard shows East Bay Post-Acute last month was fined $75,000 for a class AA citation, a violation that CDPH has "determined to have been a direct proximate cause of death of a patient or resident of a long term care facility." In January 2019, Gateway was fined $1,000 for a Class B violation, which has a direct or immediate relationship to patient health, safety, or security. A similar fine was issued to Gateway in 2016.
Anthony and Prema Thekkek, owners of Gateway have reportedly been cited for violations at other skilled nursing facilities they owned across the Bay Area, including abuse and lack of infection control.
When we asked the spokesperson for Gateway for a response to this he referred us to the statement released Friday, in which he said Gateway was following all guidelines and recommendations.
Gateway hasn't reported any new case numbers since last Friday.
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