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Nurses, retirees plan to lobby state to keep Tampa nursing home open

Published Aug. 18, 2016

TAMPA — About a dozen nurses and the seniors they care for are headed to Tallahassee to try to save a Tampa retirement home under threat of closure.

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration this month issued an order to revoke the license for University Village's nursing home by Sept. 3 because its owners failed to provide proof of financial stability.

Led by the Service Employee International Union 1199 chapter, the nurses and seniors will travel today by minibus to lobby the state agency to let the management company that runs the home take over the license.

The facility on N 22nd Street provides care to about 95 residents and is part of a larger complex with apartments for retirees and assisted living units.

A revocation could result in the whole center closing, meaning layoffs for more than 100 nurses, cooks and servers and relocation of residents, said union vice president Bob Gibson.

"We have residents who could potentially be kicked to the curb," Gibson said. "These are folks in the last stages of their life; they want to live with dignity."

TR & SNF, the firm that owns the home, has appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

"Unfortunately, this just kicks the can down the road," Gibson said. "I can't imagine the stress placed on residents and employees not knowing if and when the other shoe will drop."

He wants the state to transfer the license to Novum, the firm that has managed the center for about a year, and convert the owners to landlords.

Novum spokesman Wallace Dandy said litigation over the license is not linked to the quality of care at University Village.

The home has run afoul of state regulators before. In 2015, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation barred it from taking on new residents because of underfunded reserves and other concerns.

In March, the same agency issued two orders of initial suspension saying the home filed false information and failed to pay more than $4 million in refunds to residents.

Tampa Council member Lisa Montelione supports the effort to let Novum run the facility.

"When people get into their upper years, any change is a setback," said Montelione, whose late mother had dementia. "They have to have a routine and continuity in their care."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

An earlier version of this story failed to note that Lisa Montelione's mother is deceased.