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Families scramble due to closure of Tampa nursing home

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Published:   |   Updated: July 10, 2013 at 11:55 AM

TAMPA - Residents of a Lutz nursing home are looking for new places to live because the facility is shuttering the 179-bed, skilled nursing wing after federal regulators cut the flow of Medicaid and Medicare payments.

The reason: a history of complaints about deficiencies ranging from patient abuse to unreported and mishandled sexual assaults.

The family of Elsie Harch, who has lived at Lakeshore Villas for two years, learned of the closure late last week when they found a letter on the bedside table in the woman's room. The search for a new home began Monday for the 94-year-old Tommy Dorsey fan.

Harch's grandson, Joe Bamford, said his grandmother suffers from dementia but remains content at Lakeshore.

"She's a pretty happy person," said Bamford, who added that the search for a new nursing home so far has been unsuccessful. "We have not been able to find a place for her. There are very few beds available."

Ideally, Harch will find a home nearby, he said.

"We are there so often, sometimes three or four times a week," he said. "It's important to be close to her; if there's an emergency or if she needs something or for just randomly stopping by, which is what we do.

Bamford said family members started looking for a nursing home Monday morning. They began in Pasco County; his mother was looking Tuesday in Clearwater.

"It's a mad scramble ... to find place for a loved one to live," Bamford said. "We are very concerned, very concerned right now. We have nowhere to go."

Patients at the facility, located on 12 acres of lakefront property at 16002 Lakeshore Villa Drive, each got a July 5 letter from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration notifying them that they have a month to find a new home. The facility has said it plans to close by Aug. 12 but would remain open until all its patients are relocated.

The nursing home provides care not only for the elderly but for children with special needs.

Lakeshore provided a list of nursing homes in the area, none of which had any beds available, Bamford said.

The nursing home "had plenty of opportunities to make the place better, to fix the problems and they didn't," Bamford said. "This never had to happen and it should never happen to anyone."

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The decision to close the facility came after the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will stop the flow of money to Lakeshore at the end of this week. Lakeshore Villas was listed on the center's June list of "Special Focus Facilities" that have had "a history of serious quality issues."

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses and inspects nursing homes and administers Medicaid and Medicare funding, said May 22 that Lakeshore Villas' license would not be renewed. The license expired June 29 but Lakeshore Villas' owners had appealed, according to agency records.

State inspectors have found repeated problems at the facility and levied five fines totaling $81,000.

The most recent fine, $16,000, came because cardiopulmonary resuscitation was not performed on an 87-year-old patient Nov. 7 after an employee mix-up over whether the patient had a "do not resuscitate" order, according to a state document. The patient died.

Lakeshore Villas was cited for 14 severe deficiencies by the state, four cases that caused "actual harm," according to documents, including the facility's handling of sexual assault allegations made by an elderly patient against another patient. The facility was fined $43,500 in that 2011 case, which was never reported to law enforcement authorities, according to records.

Attempts to reach administrators at Lakeshore Villas on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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"Fourteen deficiencies, including 10 with immediate jeopardy ... that place should be closed down," said Brian Lee, executive director for the Families for Better Care, an elder advocacy group in Tallahassee. "All have come since 2007. They've had numerous fines and have been on the watch list for 14 months. They've had every opportunity to turn things around. They just failed to do so.

"It's heartbreaking for me as an advocate," he said. "Residents there now have to endure the additional suffering of being taken out of their own homes because managers at Lakeshore failed to get things right."

Moving the elderly has its own, unique problems, Lee said.

"It's really tough to move people from nursing homes," he said. "That's why there are so few shut down - less than five over the past 20 years. It's so difficult for residents to re-adjust, to acclimate, especially those with cognitive issues like dementia."

Lee suggested families moving patients into other homes move quickly to find places and check them out to select the best options. There are a lot of resources out there to check, he said, including nursing home-comparison websites such as Florida Health Care Finder.

"It's bittersweet even for patients," he said. "It's sad to see a facility close down, but I know patients will get better health care elsewhere."

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration was poised to yank the license of the nursing home, said agency communications director Michelle Dahnke, though the decision to close up shop was made solely by the nursing home administrators, she said.

"It is my understanding that the plan is to close entirely and not allow even private pay in the nursing facility after Aug. 12, which is the choice of the facility's administrator/owner," Dahnke said.

The Agency has several coordinators working with the Lakeshore Villas pediatric patients and their families "to identify services available that will meet each child's needs in a new care location," Dahnke said. "Where possible, children will be transitioned home with their families with the appropriate care and support. Otherwise, arrangements will be made for care in other appropriate settings."

She said the agency will monitor the relocation of all the patients "to ensure they have choices in where they move; that services provided in the new location will be appropriate to meet their current needs; and that the residents transition well in their new home."

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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