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State Moves to Decertify Nursing Home

Times Staff Writer

State officials have launched a two-pronged effort to close a Santa Ana nursing home that has been fined and cited numerous times in the last three months for violations of health care standards.

The state Department of Health Services has not only initiated proceedings to revoke the license of Bristol Care Center, but has also recommended to federal authorities that the 146-bed facility be decertified from participation in the Medicare program.

Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer, Health Services director, said last week that the actions “stem from the department’s review and enforcement efforts over the past several months over allegations of health and safety violations.”

Kizer pointed out that the nursing home, which has been operated since October, 1983, by South Coast Care Corp. of Huntington Beach, has received 14 citations and been fined $65,250 since March 14.

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Included in the total were a citation and $25,000 fine relating to the death of a patient.

Kizer said that his department has halted new admissions of Medi-Cal patients to Bristol Care Center and will closely monitor the facility while the decertification and revocation proceedings are under way.

While the license revocation involves lengthy review and hearing procedures that can take as long as two years, decertification--which would halt payment of Medicare and Medi-Cal funds--can have a more immediate impact on the facility’s operation, according to state officials.

Bristol Care Center has few private-pay clients and thus must rely heavily on Medicare patients for revenue, according to Joan Dowling, Santa Ana regional administrator of the health department’s licensing and certification division.

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Dowling said her office has filed its complaint with the state attorney general’s office for review. If that office determines there are grounds to proceed against the nursing home, the matter then goes before an administrative hearing officer.

Last Months

Joe Cavanagh, a lawyer for the state Department of Health Services, said such proceedings usually go on for several months and “on rare occasions for up two years.”

However, Cavanagh said, “the norm is that they don’t go all the waythrough” to the hearing phase.

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“Either the facility changes drastically or, more likely, it goes through a change of ownership and the new licensee gets things back into shape,” he said.

Dowling said that was the case when South Coast Care Corp. took over the Santa Ana nursing home from another operator in 1983.

Richard L. Pruitt, executive director of South Coast Care Corp., was out of town and unavailable for comment Monday.


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