Audit highlights urgent need for better care, accountability and transparency
LANSING — A report issued today by the state’s auditor general that outlines multiple instances of neglect, understaffing and a callous disregard for residents and their families at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans underscores the need for immediate, corrective action and for the establishment of a veterans ombudsman’s office to handle concerns and complaints. According to the report, the home is routinely understaffed, and workers at the facility falsely claimed to follow up on patient alarms. The report also found that the home failed to respond to allegations of abuse and neglect, instead of investigating the occurrences and holding negligent employees accountable.
“It’s simply unacceptable that we allow our veterans to be treated this way,” Brinks said. “It is clear that the care of the residents at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is not what it should be, and the people who are entrusted with their care are downplaying or hiding these incidents rather than making the situation right. No one would want their parent or grandparent to live in such an environment, and we should not allow the men and women who served our country to live under these conditions, either.”
According to the report:
- Location and fall alarm checks failed to take place 43 percent of the time and 33 percent of the time, respectively — however, the incidents were reported as if checks had occurred 100 percent of the time and 96 percent of the time, respectively.
- The staffing contractor failed to meet adequate staffing guidelines 81 percent of the time in a four-month period, with shortages of as many as 22 people per day.
- Allegations of neglect and abuse were routinely ignored. Nine of 10 complaints alleging abuse or neglect weren’t forwarded to the director of nursing, and 91 percent of complaints in the 23-month period covered by the audit were referred to the manager of the department under complaint, rather than a supervisor or administrator outside the department.
- Medications were often not distributed according to care plans. During the 23-month period of the audit, 39 percent of nonnarcotic prescriptions were refilled late or more than five days early.
“We really must start demanding better for our veterans,” Brinks said. “I have been working on resolving the patient care concerns at the home since I entered the Legislature three years ago, because providing the best care possible for our veterans should be a priority.”
In an effort to improve patient care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, Brinks introduced House Bill 5088 in November 2015, which would create the office of Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman. That office would be tasked with investigating and resolving problems encountered by the residents, family and friends at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. The bill has yet to receive a hearing before the House Government Operations Committee.
“I urge my colleagues to hold a hearing on this proposal and to establish an ombudsman’s office to serve our veterans and their families,” Brinks said. “The auditor general’s report makes it clear that our veterans are enduring substandard care, and even neglect. They’ve already waited too long for our help, and we owe it to them to take action now.”