Veteran’s Administration facilities are under strict scrutiny after a whistleblower complained of a “substantial and specific danger to public health and safety” at the Brockton Veterans Affairs Medical Center nursing home. As reported by the Boston Globe, by its own standards, VA facilities are operating with substandard treatment and patient neglect known to the organization. Thanks to a whistleblower from the Brockton VA nursing home, a federal investigation was conducted which shed light on patient neglect at the facility revealing inappropriate behavior by nursing and support staff, including sleeping – rather than participating in patient care – while on the clock. In the federal investigation report, significant concern was noted for the “blatant disregard for veteran safety by the registered nurses and certified nurse assistants”.
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates 133 nursing homes nationally. Of that total, forty-five of the facilities received a one of out five-star rating upon review by the organization itself, including New England facilities in Brockton, MA; Medford, MA; and Augusta, ME. This VA rating system has many parallels to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services five-star quality rating system given to each Medicare-qualifying nursing home in the United States – providing ratings to facilities based on inspections, staffing, and quality measures (information about how well nursing homes are caring for physical and clinical needs of residents).
Of course, not all staff members at these facilities are participants in patient neglect. Some, including the whistleblower who came forward in Brockton, are trying to provide veterans with the care they deserve despite the challenging environment.
While nursing homes remain under strict scrutiny by the public and the press, it is not yet clear what the ultimate effect will be on patient care for the approximately 46,000 veterans living in VA nursing homes, as no plan of action has been implemented.
More broadly, nursing homes in Massachusetts are monitored by the Department of Public Health, which in cooperation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Civil Monetary Penalty Funds, provides financial support to nursing homes for promotion of protection and advancement of patient care. Important information for nursing home patients and their families is available on the Department of Public Health’s website, here.
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