RICHMOND, FEB. 23 -- Virginia officials have approved hundreds of new nursing home beds, including 120 in the districts of two of the legislature's most senior members, in the two weeks since Gov. Gerald L. Baliles proposed a moratorium on new beds to control the state's health care costs.

The continuing approval of nursing home beds shows how ineffective a prospective moratorium would be in controlling costs, according to a number of lawmakers on the General Assembly's budget committees. One of them, Sen. Dudley J. (Buzz) Emick Jr. (D-Botetourt), called on Baliles today to halt construction immediately of all new facilities.

"The certificate of need machine was stamping out more beds even as we talked {about a moratorium}. As late as last week they were still stamping them out," Emick said. "A lot of industry providers are slipping and sliding through the net." A certificate of need must be issued by the state before a nursing home or hospital can expand or be started.

Emick warned that without immediate and dramatic action by the legislature to contain the steadily rising costs of Medicaid, "we will be faced with no option but to increase taxes." Medicaid is the joint federal-state program to provide medical care for the indigent; the state share of Medicaid payments comes directly from general tax revenues.

Since Baliles called for the moratorium Feb. 10, the state health commissioner has approved 333 new nursing home beds, according to state records. The records also show that applications last year for two 60-bed facilities -- one in Fluvanna County, represented by Del. V. Earl Dickinson (D-Louisa), and another in Brookneal, represented by Sen. Howard P. Anderson (D-Halifax) -- were approved on the same day that Baliles announced his moratorium proposal.

Both legislators had urged the health department to approve the nursing homes and are members of the conference committee on the budget, which will decide the fate of the governor's moratorium plan before the legislature adjourns March 12.

Baliles was beaten by the hospital industry on an earlier administration proposal to put fees on hospital and nursing home beds to raise Medicaid funds. As a stop-gap measure meant to force the issue next year, the governor called for a two-year freeze on future medical beds and new hospital services, starting July 1.

The Senate Finance Committee has endorsed a one-year moratorium, while the House Appropriations Committee has rejected the idea and instead included a study of health care costs in its version of the 1988-90 budget.

Dickinson, who had been pushing for months for approval of the Fluvanna project, said he redoubled his efforts only after learning that Emick had introduced a moratorium bill of his own last month, before the governor proposed his.

Once he heard of Emick's bill, Dickinson said, he contacted Human Resources Secretary Eva S. Teig and Health Commissioner Christopher M.G. Buttery and again urged approval for the project. "I did encourage them to go ahead and act on this," he said. "I got it approved at the deadline."

Teig denied that Dickinson contacted her or her office about the nursing home approval. "It's just coincidence" that the projects were approved the same day as Baliles' announcement, Teig said.

Health Department records show that an earlier proposal by the same group for a Fluvanna nursing home had been denied, in part because the area is projected to have a surplus of 138 nursing home beds in 1992.

Another health department staff report had recommended denial of the 60-bed project in Brookneal, southeast of Lynchburg, saying it was not consistent with the state's health plan and that a facility of that size was not needed in that area.