One of Baltimore's largest and most troubled nursing homes, Golden Touch Care Center, has been sold to a Rockville man who made dramatic improvements at another inner-city care facility he bought last year.
State health officials were delighted with Sarkis Nazarian's decision to buy Golden Touch, which was on the verge of losing its operating license for failing to care for its 210 sick and elderly residents.
"I think he has a proven track record of providing quality care," said Nelson J. Sabatini, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"He's made the commitment to make the changes we feel are necessary," Mr. Sabatini added.
Mr. Nazarian could not be reached for comment last night. But he promised state officials that he will make extensive renovations to the building at 140 W. Lafayette St., which has been renamed the Baltimore Nursing and Convalescent Center.
Air conditioning will be installed by next summer, Mr. Sabatini said. The plumbing system will be overhauled, and the nursing stations upgraded.
During the renovations, Mr. Nazarian plans to reduce the number of residents from 210 to 150, making it easier to deliver quality care.
After watching him transform the former Inns of Evergreen South, now called Harbor Inn Convalescent Center, state health officials believe Mr. Nazarian will deliver what he promises.
Like Golden Touch, the Inns of Evergreen South, near the Cross Street Market in South Baltimore, had a history of serious problems when Mr. Nazarian took it over. But state inspectors gave the nursing home two good evaluations in the past year and recently stopped dictating how the center must be staffed.
By purchasing Golden Touch from Leah Rama of Los Angeles, Mr. Nazarian spared the health department from revoking its license and transferring the home's patients to other care facilities.
Mr. Sabatini announced the decision to close Golden Touch last month after the nursing home failed its fourth inspection in 12 months.
Inspectors said the nurses and doctors failed in many instances to give proper medication, treat crippling bedsores and consult each other about the illnesses that afflict the home's residents.
Last year the health department ordered the transfer of 12 Golden Touch patients -- most of them critically ill diabetics -- to other nursing homes because, in the words of state regulators, their health was in "imminent danger."