Published March 13, 2010
State pulls Tacoma nursing home's licenseMIKE ARCHBOLD AND SEAN ROBINSON; STAFF WRITERS
Citing a pattern of deficiencies that placed residents in "immediate jeopardy," the state has revoked the license of a 120-bed nursing home in Tacoma. The owner, after initially appealing the revocation, decided this week to close the home.The 43 people currently living at the Avamere Bel Air of Tacoma nursing home, 630 S. Pearl St., will be relocated to other facilities during the next few weeks by the owner, the Avamere Group, which is based in Wilsonville, Ore.Avamere representatives couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.The license revocation – a rare step – grew out of a series of unannounced state inspections in January and February, following state surveys and reports dating to August 2009. Inspectors found the home deficient in 18 categories.Key findings included failure to control the spread of infection and failure to prevent and treat pressure sores, a common ailment among nursing home residents. For three months, staff didn’t track pressure sores at all, inspectors found. Residents developed new wounds, or old wounds grew worse as a result, according to state records.Avamere Bel Air has a long history of deficiencies listed in records from the state Department of Social and Health Services. The facility received six “immediate jeopardy” citations from DSHS between August 2007 and February of this year.In December, the state recommended denial of Medicare payments for new admissions at Bel Air. Medicare’s Web site gives Bel Air its lowest rating, one star, for “much below average.”The number of health deficiencies at Bel Air – 28 – nearly triples the statewide average of 10 deficiencies. The national average is eight, according to the Medicare site.To oversee the relocation of the residents at Bel Air, DSHS has hired Van Moore, a veteran nursing home care manager, as a temporary manager. He also will supervise care at Bel Air until residents leave.Moore, who works as a private contractor, said Friday that a revocation and closure is rare; state officials said the same thing. Moore said he handles the vast majority of closures in the Northwest but hasn’t been asked to do so in five or six years.Nancy Tyson, a regional administrator for the state’s residential care services, said Avamere “has made it very clear they will continue to provide and work very diligently with the relocation.”Tyson said the Bel Air staff members have had meetings with residents and their families. The nursing home had nearly 90 residents a month ago.Avamere also owns Avamere Skilled Nursing and Avamere Heritage Rehabilitation, both in Tacoma; Avamere Georgian House in Lakewood; and Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation in Sequim. Unlike Bel Air, the four facilities haven’t been flagged for persistent problems. However, the Medicare Web site gives the other two Tacoma Avamere facilities one-star ratings.Avamere voluntarily closed its Highlands Avamere facility in Tacoma last September; it also was a “special focus” for inspectors but its license was not revoked, Tyson said.Complicating the current relocation is that Bel Air has a ventilator unit for residents who can’t breathe on their own; there were 16 residents in that unit as of Friday, Tyson said.She said there are no other facilities with ventilator units in Washington that currently have slots available. She said the state is contracting with an agency to work with those patients until beds open.Moore said Park Rose Care Center in Tacoma is opening a ventilator unit soon.Federal reimbursement ends March 31 for Bel Air residents covered by Medicaid or Medicare, but Moore said Avamere has indicated it will continue to house residents after that date if needed.