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Nursing home told to take no new patients

State officials have stopped a 272-bed nursing home for the indigent from accepting new patients until the owners do a better job caring for patients there now.

The action is the first time in three years an admissions moratorium on a nursing home has been issued in Pinellas County, said Carol King, area supervisor for the state Agency for Health Care Administration. Hillsborough officials say one moratorium has been issued there in the past two years.

The moratorium was handed down May 28 to TLC St. Petersburg at 1735 M.L. King (Ninth) St. S, which cares for the elderly and AIDS patients. The home, formerly known as Wedgewood under different owners, has had a history of troubles with the state.

King said an inspection team in May found deficiencies in the quality of care, nursing, physician services and infection control.

"All of that warranted a moratorium on admissions," King said. "We do not put anyone on a moratorium without a serious concern."

TLC owner Gerard Beaudoin said he looked at the moratorium as an opportunity to make things better. "We're trying to turn it around," Beaudoin said. "Actually, its a mutual thing (the moratorium). I understand and we need to clean it up."

Once the problems are fixed, the facility can begin accepting new patients, King said. She said TLC has been cooperative with the state agency.

Beaudoin said some of the problems found at the nursing home stem from rapid expansion during the spring. In less than two months, the facility opened a northeast wing and added nearly 40 patients, he said.

To take care of new patients, the facility also added new staff as well. "We've hired a lot of people who just came out of school and people just certified (in health care work) so we're trying to do some training," he said.

In addition to the new hiring, remodeling is being done to the building, which went up in 1966. Beaudoin also said administrative offices had to be moved to double-wide mobile homes on the back of the property, causing even more problems.

King said that although she couldn't speak specifically to TLC's problems, rapid expansion can be trouble for almost any nursing home.

"Even when we have brand new ones open, we've told them not to admit (patients) too rapidly _ try to get staff on and trained before admitting new patients," she said.

A report on what the inspectors found in late May was not available Tuesday. King said once TLC officials haved signed the report and sent it back to the agency, she will be able to release more details about the allegations. That could occur early next week.

Right now, the facility has 257 patients, 40 of whom have AIDS, Beaudoin said. All of the patients' care is paid for through Medicaid or Medicare.

AIDS patients bring the home $171.35 per day, state officials say. The nursing home is paid $90.43 per day for others. Beaudoin said he expects to lose between 20 and 30 patients before the the moratorium is lifted, which he anticipates being this summer. He said the facility should be able to replace the patients relatively quickly when admissions are re-opened.

Meanwhile, Beaudoin has resigned from the Community Alliance of Pinellas for AIDS (CAPA), a non-profit corporation devoted to assisting AIDS patients.

CAPA said in a news release Tuesday that "the board of CAPA encouraged and accepted the resignation of Mr. Beaudoin," as well as the group's executive director. "Upon advice of counsel we are not at liberty to discuss any information, due to potential litigation."

Ed Hughes, president of CAPA, said CAPA has probably referred "two or three" patients to TLC. He said he didn't think Beaudoin's presence on the board amounted to a conflict of interest.

"I haven't seen him try to influence us in any way," regarding TLC, he said.

Luis Moreno, client representative for CAPA, said, "I would never, ever refer a client to TLC based on Mr. Beaudoin's association (with CAPA)."

The nursing home has seen its share of trouble. At one point, it was called Wedgewood Health Care and run by different owners. Complaints ranged from failure to keep proper paperwork to patients lying in excrement to patients given the wrong treatments in the late 1980s.

In October 1987, the state imposed a moratorium on Wedgewood that lasted a year. The number of patients dropped from 200 to fewer than 60.

New owners changed the name to TLC St. Petersburg, but at the end of 1989, state officials imposed a moratorium on the home because of improper nursing care, inadequate infection control and improper supervision of the nursing staff, officials said then.

According to health care administration records, the facility has had trouble with inspections several times during the past two years. The problems included failure to:

Document social services activities involving residents.

Provide private closet space in each room and privacy curtains for patients in multibed rooms.

Health care officials have levied at least two fines against the facility in the past two years; one for $2,750 in October 1992 and a second for $1,750 in January 1993.

Beaudoin said he hopes to get rid of the nursing home's latest problems by mid-July once round-the-clock training is finished. He said the facility has had a standard license for two years as an indication that the home has been run adequately.

"The facility as a whole has gotten away from the Wedgewood days," he said.

_ Staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.