Report shows how Veterans’ homes can improve

The Associated Press
Saturday November 11, 2000

SACRAMENTO — California’s veterans’ homes, subject of recent allegations of abuse and neglect, could improve the health care they provide to 2,000 veterans with more staff, training and pay, according to a task force report released Friday. 

The recommendations included: 

• Providing additional money and hiring more people to increase staffing and training, particularly at the Barstow home. 

• Giving each home a full-time chief medical officer with long-term-care experience. 

• Requiring the director of nursing at each home to have previous experience in long-term care and increasing the salary to be competitive with other facilities. 

• Requiring each home to have a separate administrator who is certified as a nursing home administrator. 

• Providing money to recruit and retain staff. 

• Paying a higher salary to nurses who have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

• Providing day-care and subsidized rental apartments for the children of home staff. 

• Giving new staff members a mentor or sponsor. 

“Although quality of life has not been a serious problem in surveys of the homes, there is room for improvement in some areas, such as creating a more home-like environment, increasing privacy and combating boredom,” the report said. 

It suggested providing residents with more private rooms and bathrooms and more room for hobbies. 

The report also said the homes do not reflect the state’s racial, ethnic and gender makeup. 

“Minorities who may feel disenfranchised by past practices of discrimination and segregation may not have been reached by prior efforts in the outreach and marketing areas,” the report said. 

One resident recommended to the task force putting a sign saying “Home of the Heroes” on each home.  

That and posting a biographical sketch of each resident on his or her door “would enhance respect for the residents by staff and other residents, while improving self esteem,” said the report. 

Davis’ interim veterans affairs secretary, Bruce Thiesen, said all the recommendations will be considered and many are similar to changes being made in the homes. 

For example, he said, the administration is already naming separate certified administrators for each home.  

Also, the current state budget contains $4.5 million for recruitment and retention incentives such as relocation expenses, and money to pay for 21 additional doctors and nurses. 

The state runs three homes for aging or disabled veterans: Yountville with 1,200 residents, Barstow with 400 and Chula Vista with 400. The Chula Vista home opened last May. 

The Barstow home, in particular, has been accused of patient abuse and neglect. State health officials last summer issued seven citations and fines of $74,500 for inadequate patient care, including the deaths of three residents. 

In May, state health inspectors found 26 federal violations at the Barstow home. As a result, the federal government cut off Medicare and Medi-Cal payments for at least four months at a cost of $320,000. 

Gov. Gray Davis appointed the task force in December 1999 to suggest ways to improve health care in the three homes. 

“I know there is much more work to be done,” Davis said in the letter introducing the report. 

On the Net: Read the report on the governor’s Home page: