A small nursing home in Towson has announced that it plans to close next month, creating concern in nearby neighborhoods about the future of the building.
The closing of Armacost Nursing Home, at Regester Avenue and Sherwood Road, follows a report in May by state inspectors who found a range of "deficiencies" in the facility, including mice, dirty bathrooms and patients who had been sponge bathed but not showered in more than a year.
However, state officials say the nursing home, a Medicaid-only facility, is voluntarily giving up its license. Had they chosen to remain open, the home operators faced a $44,000 fine for violations in nursing practices, lack of patient activities, housekeeping and pest control problems, according to the report by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Health Care Quality after a May 24 and 25 inspection.
"What we wanted to do was encourage the operators to either put money toward the patients' care or close," said Wendy A. Kronmiller, deputy director of the Office of Health Care Quality.
The nursing home has 17 patients, who will be relocated to other facilities, said Ira D. Greene, Armacost Nursing Home's administrator.
Greene called the closing a "business decision," saying the facility could not operate without continuing to lose money. In a telephone interview, he declined to discuss the state's findings, though he pointed out the nursing home was voluntarily giving up its license.
Greene said that no decision had been made about whether the building would be put up for sale after the nursing home closes in the middle of next month. One possibility, he said, would be converting the nursing home, which he said opened in 1936, into an assisted-living facility.
Towson-area community leaders say they wouldn't mind seeing the old beige building remain used as some sort of nursing home or assisted-living facility but are worried about the property being used as a juvenile or drug treatment facility.
"That's a major concern for residents," said Jim Gregory, who lives across the street from Armacost. "There are all homes surrounding it - families, children."
John Keenan, president of the Idlewylde Community Association, and other community leaders point to battles in other neighborhoods, such as the one in the Charles Village area where the state is proposing opening a juvenile center. "We don't want that," Keenan said.
"Armacost has always been a good neighbor," Keenan said. "The kids go there at Christmas for caroling. ... Whoever is president of the community association also gets the Armacost newsletter. And the residents are very low-key."
He said the nursing home building blends in well with the houses nearby.
If the Armacost building was sold and razed, zoning restrictions would prevent more than two houses from being built on the half-acre property, according to county officials. But, with its location, residents say they doubt they will have new families as neighbors.
Some of the deficiencies noted during last month's inspection would have to be addressed before a new license for an assisted-living facility or a similar operation would be granted, Kronmiller said.