A recent audit conducted by the Tennessee Comptroller rated three of four state-run veterans’ homes below average in quality of resident care. In addition to poor scores, the study also cited the homes for not reporting veteran deaths accurately or timely and not running comprehensive background checks on employees.
Unlike the two VA nursing homes in Murfreesboro and Mountain Home run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which were under a separate, national review in June after news sites uncovered hidden VA statistics, the care facilities reviewed in this audit are run by the state of Tennessee and are located in Clarksville, Humboldt, Knoxville and Murfreesboro.
Throughout the duration of the study, which lasted from Jan. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018, Clarksville, which opened in January 2016, scored higher overall than Humboldt, Knoxville and Murfreesboro.
Below-Average Ratings in Quality of Resident Care
While Clarksville was the only nursing home to avoid receiving a below average rating (2 stars or less) for quality of care, of the other three homes, Humboldt and Murfreesboro consistently scored the lowest.
Management suggested a larger number of long-term care patients in Humboldt and Murfreesboro contributed to the low scores. Clarksville and Knoxville, they argued, frequently have short-term residents who are typically younger, stronger, and able to return to their normal Activities of Daily Living (ADL) more quickly.
Management voiced plans to update staff training and more effectively plan resident care to help boost their scores.
Failure to Accurately and Timely Report Deaths
Every month, the veteran care facilities are required to report the number of total deaths to the county health department. Reportedly, 20 of 60 deaths were not accurately reported. Of those 60 deaths, two deaths in Humboldt were never reported, and one death was reported with an inaccurate date.
In Knoxville, the facility recorded that one of its residents was deceased, even though the individual had been discharged from the facility alive.
The audit goes on to note the importance of accurately reporting deaths, as the government uses this information to issue death certificates in a timely manner so a family member may make the necessary arrangements and settle a loved one’s estate.
Failure to Complete Employee Background Checks
Residents of these facilities are typically elderly veterans. As such, the population being served is vulnerable and in need of high quality care. As a result, all employees are required to undergo extensive pre-employment background checks.
Unfortunately, the audit discovered that the care facilities sometimes brought on staff without first running the criminal background, health, registry and reference checks.
The Tennessee Comptroller’s office randomly sampled 25 employees out of 1,320 hired throughout the review period to see who had completed the pre-employment screening checks.
Overall, 16 percent of the sampled 25 employees did not meet the requirements. Additionally, it was found that the facilities:
- Did not obtain a criminal background check on 8 percent of employees.
- Did not check the national sex offender’s site for 100 percent of employees.
- Did not obtain drug screening on 4 percent of employees.
- Conducted two reference checks, rather than the required three, for 8 percent of employees.
In addition to the three above-mentioned citations, several other problems in the report included:
- “Nurses did not document that they had distributed all doses of medicine to residents as prescribed.”
- “The homes did not have comprehensive policies in place for documenting, addressing, and monitoring the resolutions of complaints received from residents and employees.”
- “The veterans’ homes did not document the presence of a Registered Nurse on staff at all times.”
- “Management did not notify the Comptroller’s Office of possible unlawful conduct in a reasonable amount of time, as required by state statute.”
While this audit solely focused on four state-run veterans’ homes, unfortunately many of these uncovered problems compare to those in other Tennessee nursing homes as well.
The elderly, and veterans who many times have complicated health needs, deserve high quality care. If you or someone you know has experienced neglect or abuse at a veterans’ nursing home, please call us at (901) 322-4232 for a free consultation. We are committed to fighting for you and don’t get paid until and unless you do.