BENNINGTON — Leaders at the Vermont Veterans Home told the board of trustees Wednesday they believe they’re ready for a key upcoming inspection and that they expect to consider a few key changes supported by a recently released independent study.
The meeting was one of the regular, bimonthly meetings of the trustees but it came at a challenging time.
Based on several inspections over the last few months by agents of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the home, which is the only state-run nursing home for veterans in Vermont, could be cut off from Medicare and Medicaid funding Aug. 26.
The meeting was also the first since the release of a study of management and operations at the home by Health Care Management Associates.
Melissa Jackson, administrator of the home, said the next inspection by the Centers, also known as CMS, would be unannounced and the inspection will probably last for two to three days. But Jackson said the home’s officials would know “where we stand” by the end of the visit.
Joseph Krawczyk Jr., a retired Army colonel and the chairman of the home’s board of trustees, said the staff and administrators had taken seriously all of the deficiencies identified, but pointed out they had come in areas like the storage of defrosting hot dogs and one dose of medication out of date by one day on a cart with hundreds of medication cards.
By contrast, the home is required to report certain incidents involving patients to be sure that the staff responded correctly. Krawczyk said those reports were reviewed and no deficiencies were found.
“That’s where the meat is, as far as I’m concerned, how you go out there and take care of your veterans and your residents and they can’t find anything wrong in those things,” he said.
The trustees also heard from Krawczyk and Commissioner James Reardon of the state Department of Finance and Management about the report which had been released to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee last week.
The report found that the care and patient satisfaction at the home was rated highly by those living there and family members but also found that there had been stress because of the difficult relationship between management and staff, especially members of the Vermont State Employee Association. The report concluded that neither side was without blame.
Among the reports recommendation were that the home’s deputy administrator be promoted to chief executive officer; that the trustees consider a management model in use at veterans homes in Maine; and that the home employ full- and part-time employees.
Reardon said the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin would prefer the creation of a chief operations officer, which would keep the administrator vat the top of the chain-of-command. The administration is also asking the VSEA to create a separate category, and therefore separate contract agreements, for employees working in health care.
Krawczyk said he didn’t believe the Maine model was “needed” in Vermont because the Maine homes had certain geographic and legislative differences that would be hard to replicate here.
There was general agreement that the home should have part-time employees but Krawczyk said he didn’t think it would mean adding employees and the change might replace some full-time equivalent positions.
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