With Florida assisted living facilities the focus of media scrutiny, the state has begun clamping down on several in Pinellas County it has deemed unsatisfactory.
In St. Petersburg, the Agency for Health Care Administration, which regulates the state's 36,000 health care facilities, has notified the 51-bed Peacekeepers Den that it will deny its application for a license under new ownership. AHCA cited a perennially leaking roof and problems with resident care for its decision.
The ALF at 1325 Fourth St. N at first appealed the decision to the state Division of Administrative Hearings, but Friday the case was closed after AHCA and the facility agreed to handle the issue with informal proceedings.
Peacekeepers Den "is hopeful all issues may be resolved and its application for license can be approved," the ALF's lawyer, William A. Sweat Jr., said in a written statement.
A South Pasadena nursing home also is in serious trouble. Friday, AHCA issued an immediate moratorium on admissions at Pasadena Manor, 1430 Pasadena Ave. S. The nursing home, which had 110 residents when the moratorium was imposed, is licensed for 126 beds.
AHCA is accusing Pasadena Manor of failing to meet Medicare and Medicaid standards and is recommending that the nursing home's agreement with Medicare and Medicaid be terminated on Sept. 11. In May, the Department of Health and Human Services began fining the facility $100 a day.
Tom Groesbeck, the nursing home's spokesman, acknowledged that "the state has identified some ongoing issues," but he said Pasadena Manor is working "very diligently" to resolve them.
AHCA's actions against Pasadena Manor and Peacekeepers Den are among a number of severe sanctions the agency has imposed recently in Pinellas County.
• A week ago, the agency revoked the license of Hamilton Assisted Living, a St. Petersburg facility at 5201 Fifth Ave. N, for deficiencies ranging from staffing to resident care.
• In May, it revoked the license of Hilcrest Retirement Residence, an ALF in downtown St. Petersburg that was overrun with bed bugs. Hilcrest has requested a hearing before the Division of Administrative Hearings, and the case is set for October.
• In June, AHCA announced it was stopping Medicaid payments to Mapleway in Safety Harbor and Amelia's House in Pinellas Park, both owned by Mapleway Communities. Another Mapleway home, Hillandale in Pasco County, also is facing revocation of its license.
AHCA's increased scrutiny comes on the heels of a series of newspaper reports about lax governmental action against recalcitrant facilities. Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a work group of ALF owners, industry groups and advocates for the elderly and disabled to investigate the serious failings. The group, which held its first meeting in Tallahassee this month, will meet again on Sept. 23 in Tampa.
Natalie Clanzy, district manager for the Department of Elder Affairs' Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which works to ensure residents' rights, is encouraging neighbors fed up with poorly run facilities and disgruntled ALF residents and their families to attend the upcoming meeting.
Clanzy, who visited Peacekeepers Den late last week, said little has changed at the yellow and brown building in recent months of stepped-up attention.
"I observed a bucket in the front lobby with an active leak. Residents reported not always having enough food at mealtime and that by the time they get through the dining room, if they run out of the planned meal, they'll get a sandwich," she said.
"They reported getting one roll of toilet paper a week, and one resident reported other residents coming to use his bathroom if they run out, or they'll ask to use his shower if their shower doesn't work. I looked at a sampling of the medication records; at least five residents had missed medications a day or more, because the facility had run out."
She said residents fear reprisals for speaking up.
"I have had threats of discharge for complaining," said Barry Haynes, 58, a Vietnam veteran.
Clanzy, who took State Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, on a tour of several ALFs, said the lawmaker saw the results of Peacekeepers Den's leaking roof, which caused four residents to be moved from their rooms. Haynes said he was hit by falling plaster and went to the hospital.
AHCA's website shows that it has levied $9,000 in fines against Peacekeepers Den since May. Administrator Kelly O'Sullivan blames the problems on the previous administration. She said the new owner, who took over in September, has spent thousands of dollars trying to fix the roof of the old motel that Peacekeepers Den now occupies.
Haynes said that the situation at the ALF, which in the recent past has been called Gloria Manor II, Care First and Courtyard Manor, is improving.
"It was real bad when I got here a year ago, and I think that Kelly is working real hard on all the issues," he said.
Pasadena Manor also has ongoing issues. A Medicare website lists shortcomings such as failing to provide clean bed and bath linens in good condition and keeping accurate and appropriate medical records. AHCA has fined the nursing home thousands of dollars in recent years, with smaller fines of $500 imposed in January and April.
In January, after a visit to the nursing home, volunteer ombudsman Pam Anderson wrote, "Opening residents' mail has to stop" and "Theft issues need to be addressed once and for all."
The nursing home has been plagued by "horrendous turnover in the administration, which resulted in staff just not caring about the residents at all," Anderson said this week.
She is hoping for improvement now that strong sanctions are being imposed.
Or, she said, "Shut them down."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.