Eviction Looming For Sarah Nome?
By Jim Scanlon

   Whether Sarah Nome, an 82 year old  bed ridden woman will be evicted from Kaiser Hospital and put on the public sidewalk, or whether she will be declared incompetent to care for herself and removed for safe keeping to a nursing home in Sonoma, Alameda or Santa Clara County, will depend on court hearings to be held by  the Probate Court Commissioner Harvey Goldfine on March 29th and the 30th.
   Superior Court judge John Sutro already issued an order evicting Nome from her hospital bed, but the Marin County Sheriff 's office sought clarification, asking exactly where  Sutro wanted Sarah, a frail elderly woman, taken?. In response, Sutro, in an unusual action, ordered Michelle Mc Cabe, the Marin County Public Guardian, to petition Goldfine's court for a temporary conservatorship. Mc Cabe did as ordered and located three facilities outside Marin which were willing to take Sarah in the event that Goldfine were to find her incompetent to manage her affairs.
   As reported previously in the Coastal Post,
Nome has been in Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda since January 22, 2004 after she was forcibly removed from Greenbrae Care Center and taken to Kaiser Hospital. She had complained about mistreatment at the facility and was in the process filing a law suit for mistreatment (which is pending) on her complaint when she was taken to Kaiser.
   Sarah's situation became the object of mass media attention when news of her situation was picked up by the wire  service and flashed all over the world, usually being reported superficially as a woman who has been in the hospital for over a year who refuses to leave. The oddity of this version is that most people fear hospitalization especially the frail elderly who generally don't survive long stays in hospital settings. Sarah's 14 month hospital stay, without serious complications so far, could well have sets some kind of world record.
   To date, at least three local television stations have been permitted to video probate court proceedings  before Commissioner Goldfine and one eviction proceedings before judge John Sutro, and undoubtedly more will show up for the hearings before Goldfine later this month.
   Commissioner Goldfine allowed Sarah to testify from her hospital bed by telephone at the Probate Hearing of March 17. Goldfine was patient, kind, considerate and respectful, despite technical difficulties which prevented Sarah from always hearing clearly what was being said by the lawyers although they all, without complaint, made allowances for the deficiencies of the communications system, crossing the space before the Commissioner' bench and speaking loudly before the two way speaker telephone.
   Sarah's voice sounded alert, clear, calm, precise and intelligent from her hospital room. She was obviously comfortable and formally respectful of Goldfine who continued the hearing of the 17th to the 18th so that a probate attorney might be provided.
   On the 18th, Goldfine considered having
Nome brought to court to testify, but since there was no guaranty that Kaiser Hospital would readmit her, he decided to make do with the communications system as it was. Sarah consented to Ian Sammis being appointed to represent her during the hearing for a conservator, a kind of guardian who would act in her best interest assuming she was found not able to do so herself. She asserted, as she had done previously, that she did not feel she needed a conservator.
   The Coastal Post reported last September (Judge Sutro Evicts Sick Elderly Man) of a 67 year old semi ambulatory man suffering from Multiple Sclerosis who was evicted  from Mercy Housing in Terra Linda. In that case the Deputy Sheriff who executed the court order sensibly took that distraught man to nearby
Kaiser Hospital where he was admitted, stabilized and after a short stay, helped by a medical social worker with obtaining housing. It seems likely that the Sheriff, mindful of that situation, might have wanted to avoid taking the bedridden Nome out of  Kaiser Hospital with no where to go. It certainly would not look good on the evening news.
   As things stand, unless something extraordinary occurs, Goldfine will decide on the 29th and 30th if Sarah gets a conservator. If she does, she goes were the conservator decides: Peteluma,
Oakland or San Jose, wherever! If not, judge Sutro will have to do something on April 1, 2005.  He has already stated in court before a TV camera that the problem stemmed from Nome and her family's not cooperating. There is no telling what he might do.

Judge Dufficy's Knowledge of
Nome's Home
   In a publicly available court document dated
January 21, 2004, the same date Nome was forcibly taken to Kaiser Hospital, judge Michael Dufficy denied a request by Nome made the day before on January 20th, for a fee waiver in filing a petition against Greenbrae Care Center. Dufficy wrote in cursive script, "Applicant [Nome] has large equity in real property".
   It seems odd and unusual that Dufficy would have such current, up to date,  detailed knowledge of
Nome's property and her equity in those holdings without a hearing,  without  documents being provided and testimony taken. This expression of intimate knowledge of an applicant assets would seem to confirm suspicions expressed by court critics that court personnel and court connected lawyers and businesses are ever alert for appointments to help  incapacitated frail, sick elderly people with large equity in their homes.

A Few Kind Word For Kaiser
   During the 9 months or so that the Coastal Post has been in contact with Sarah, she has complained about Kaiser's administration, especially since early December when the television in her room was removed and the delivery of her daily newspaper was halted, however she has never complained about hospital staff.
   In early March, a writer named Chris Rooney wrote an article "Morons in office, in the hospital, on the highway" in the Marin Scope Newspapers (Mill Valley Herald, Twin Cities Times, Ross Valley Reporter and S.R. News Pointer) stating, "... So, while no one seems to have the common sense to either find a place in Marin for Nome to live and mend, or quietly sneak into her room at night and smother her with a pillow, she's racked up more than $1 million in medical costs ...  and ... She's in room 502, if anyone wants to drop by with a newspaper  --- or a pillow! Anyone seen 'Million Dollar Baby?'" (A movie in which the Clint Eastwood character smothers a brain damaged female boxer).
   To add insult to injury, Rooney ends his column --- "Disclaimer: this column doesn't really endorse the killing of frail, sickly old ladies, even if it does save everyone a lot of money in the long run".
   Upon learning of the article Kaiser nursing staff immediately moved Sara to another room for her protection. (Anyone remember the Godfather?) Room 502 was kept empty as a precaution. Instead of the usual friendly smiles of all nursing staff, the writer of this article received nervous fearful glances from floor nurses when visiting Sarah.

Unanswered Questions.
   It has never been revealed who exactly who at the Greenbrae Care nursing home called the ambulance that brought Sarah to Kaiser and for what reason. Neither has it been revealed who admitted her to the hospital and for what. In other words, what was the arraignment? If Sarah was discharged from the nursing home why was this done and was it consistent with Department of Health Regulations? Did the nursing home "dump" a problem on Kaiser? Isn't the problem really between Kaiser and the nursing home and not between Kaiser and Sarah?
   In an article in the Los Angeles Times of March 23, 2005 (Patient and Hospital Are in a Test of Wills), Donna Horowitz, once a highly respected reporter for the old locally owned Independent Journal, wrote that Hillside (Greenbrae) Care Center refused to let Sarah return after Kaiser cleared her for discharge and that " ... the State Department of Health repeatedly fined the care center for not taking her back." This was news to Sarah! The state was apparently acting in her behalf as if she had already been found incompetent and she never knew it.
   Horowitz also wrote that a settlement was immanent which would indicate that a lot has gone on, and is going on presently, that has not been made public.