Veterans Home Maintains Federal Funding
09/27/12 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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The Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington will not lose its Medicare and Medicaid funding.
After a six-month struggle to correct a string of violations, a final inspection completed Wednesday found the home in compliance with federal rules.
Veterans Home Administrator Melissa Jackson says everyone cheered when they learned the home will keep its federal certification.
"It was a huge sigh of relief," Jackson said. "But I see it as a new day here, where we go and look at every system and everything we're doing so we're never in this situation again."
The problems began during the home's annual inspection in March: a veteran was hurt falling out of bed and his alarm was found to be unplugged.
In April a veteran who was incontinent was sent on an appointment without the necessary help.
Jackson says as violations were corrected, new ones kept emerging: failure to report derogatory comments, improper procedure while dressing a wound.
But this time -- with the loss of twelve million federal dollars annually looming at week's end -- the home was found to be in compliance.
Caregiver John Dunham says that understaffing at the home remains an unsolved problem.
He and other caregivers say they've had to work 16-hour double shifts at times. Now that the home's future is secure, Dunham says he's been assured that the issue will be studied and the union will be heard.
"We're optimistic we can find a compromise that will work for everybody," Dunham says.
The consulting group that's been working with the home will stay. Among the issues they'll examine is whether better scheduling can assure that every shift has the right number of caregivers.
Vermont Human Resources Commissioner Kate Duffy says the state will also stay involved.
"We're going to continue these same things that got us to this good result," the Commissioner vowed. "That's looking at our processes, looking at education, looking at some leadership development. So it's not over."
Even in the recent case in which a caregiver allegedly punched a resident, the home's response received passing marks. The caregiver is on indefinite administrative leave while the incident is under investigation.