Daily understaffing persists at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, August 10, 2017

Understaffing at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans continues to be a problem, according to an follow-up audit released by the state. That’s after the home entered into a new staffing contract in fall 2016. … However, most other major problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans identified in a blistering state audit in February 2016 have largely been resolved, the report found. …


Blame for poor care at Grand Rapids veterans home sits at the top, Dems say
Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, July 27, 2017
Democratic State Representatives Winnie Brinks and Tim Greimel say Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette hasn’t gone far enough to hold officials with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the state accountable for the poor conditions at the facility.  “Why did it take so long to get some action? For years, our veterans were literally calling for help, pressing the help button beside their bed, and hearing silence,” Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said at a Thursday, July 27, press conference in front of the home.  This week Schuette announced felony charges for falsifying medical records against 11 former nursing assistants who worked for the former contractor, J2S Group Healthforce. His investigation found there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges over the five worst complaints about member treatment, in some of which veterans died. …

Did a 2011 lawsuit against Grand Rapids Home for Veterans predict the future?
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, July 25, 2017
The lawsuit was filed by veteran Anthony Spallone intending to stop the on-going privatization at the time.  Gov. Rick Snyder recommended taking state-employed care aides out the home and replace them with nurse aides hired by local contractor J2s.  It was a contentious environment at the time as state aides lost their jobs and were replaced by people they considered to be less-skilled, less-experienced and cheaper.  Union leaders did everything they could to stop the job losses including filing Spallone’s lawsuit.  It alleged the privatization would lead to substandard care and contended J2S had a quote “dangerous track record of care”.   Spallone’s attorney at the time was adamant veterans could be put in terrible situations with the privatization. …

New legislation to require regular updates on state-run veteran homes’ health care issues
Source: Dana Chicklas, Fox 17, October 27, 2016

A new Michigan law signed Wednesday requires the state legislature receive quarterly updates regarding veterans’ health care in state facilities. The House Bill 5639, now Public Act 314, is a direct response to the scathing February audit and loved ones’ and veterans’ testimony depicting conditions at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans including: low staffing, workers failing to check on patients, and further claims of abuse and neglect like failing to promptly refill prescriptions. The legislation requires the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency or the Department of Military Veterans Affairs to provide legislative reports on health care issues at the state’s two facilities: the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. … This newly signed legislation requiring quarterly updates is one of several pieces of legislation working to improve veterans’ health care at state facilities. Earlier this year new legislation now instated an Office of the Michigan Veterans Facility Ombudsman in the Legislative Council to investigate health care complaints among other tasks. Additionally there is a package of bills currently introduced which work in part to expand state-run veterans’ homes in Michigan. …

‘Failed experiment:’ Veterans’ homes bills raise privatization concerns
Source: Josh Sidorowicz, Fox 17, October 23, 2016

A proposal meant to improve care for veterans in Michigan could prove to be a sweeping overhaul of how health care for veterans is managed statewide. But critics worry this latest effort by lawmakers to fix the state’s veterans health care system  will only continue to push state workers out in favor of more privatized care. … Hindenbrand said he is part of a bipartisan effort in both the Michigan House and Senate aiming to investing in state-of-the-art facilities and improving long-term care for veterans. … A package of bills introduced in September would create a Michigan Veterans Facility Authority to oversee the management of new and existing veteran homes. The long term goal is to bring the entire statewide veterans health care system under an authority to replace the current governing structure enacted in 1885, according to Hildenbrand. … As a cause for many of the shortcomings cited in the audit, critics have long pointed to the decision to privatize care in the home by switching from state employees to contracted workers. Mark Williams says the new legislation does little to protect from further privatization of care. He worked in the Grand Rapids home for 19 years before being laid off in 2013 and now serves as president for Local 261 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents the remaining 170 or so state workers at the Grand Rapids home. … Williams said it’s not the prospect of more state workers potentially losing their jobs that angers him but the inconsistency in the quality of care for those who have served our country. …

Veterans’ home bills spark concerns about privatizing care
Source: Cheyna Roth, Michigan Radio, October 17, 2016

A House and Senate joint committee heard testimony Monday about a package of bills that would create a new Michigan Veterans’ Facility Authority. The Authority would oversee new veteran facilities, and eventually, lawmakers hope, the entire Michigan Veteran Health System would go under the umbrella of the authority. The legislation comes after an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last February revealed persistent issues like staffing shortages and not following through on abuse complaints. … One of the concerns about care for the veterans is allowing privatization of staff at the facilities. Mark Williams is with a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents workers at the veterans’ home in Grand Rapids. He said privatizing staff could lead to poor care. …

Former J2S employee says company is to blame for huge turnover
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, June 30, 2016

After weeks of investigating the situation inside the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, the 13 Watchdog team heard a different perspective regarding severe under staffing issues at the facility. Former J2S employee Amanda Bockheim says she’s concerned the company will be able to renew its contract with the state in light of what she knows about the business. She worked for eight months in the administrative office for the company during a very difficult time.  It’s generally accepted J2S has been short-staffed for at least the past year. … A state audit from the state’s auditor general released this winter found that J2S was short 81 percent of the time over a 4-month time frame.  Shortages were as much as 22 on a given day.  Despite the problems, J2S is bidding on the contract that will begin on September 1, 2016. … She says as a former scheduler, she believes J2S is almost solely responsible for having extreme turnover and absenteeism causing staff shortages and poor care.  She says recruiters at J2S would tell applicants one thing during the hiring process and then it would be switched when the workers finished orientation at the facility. … Mark Williams is the Local 261 AFSCME representative for the state employees and says Frain is wrong for blaming the problems on his state employees. …

Schuette investigating alleged abuse at veterans home
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, May 25, 2016

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday he is investigating abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and asked for information from anyone with firsthand knowledge of mistreatment of veterans there. But Michigan Democrats say Schuette, a Republican who is considered a likely candidate for governor in 2018, should have acted much sooner on complaints that go back five years. They noted that in a 2011 court case against the state that featured claims of abuse at the home, an attorney for Schuette argued that “residency at the home is completely voluntary, and the residents are free to leave at any time that they wish.” … Dillon noted Schuette’s office opposed veterans who complained of abusive care from contracted employees when some residents of the home joined with a state employee union to try to stop the state privatization of about 170 nursing aide positions, at an estimated annual savings of $4.2 million. …

6 companies interested in Grand Rapids Home for Veterans contract
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, May 23, 2016

New documents obtained by the WZZM 13 Watchdog team show six companies are interested in bidding on the contract for nursing services at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Notably absent from that list is the current contractor, J2S, a company that’s been under fire for months for not staffing the facility by state guidelines. J2S has done the work since 2013. … J2S representatives are not listed on the sign-up sheets for a mandatory site visit earlier this month which may indicate that leaders at that company perhaps no longer want the contract. Representatives from the following companies attended the mandatory session as part of the state’s contracting program: Vibrus Group, Maxim Healthcare, QCI Healthcare, Arcadia Heath Services, Career Staff Unlimited and Care One Inc. …

Staffing shortages continue to plague Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, April 21, 2016

The 13 Watchdog team is taking a look at new allegations of staffing shortages at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. We are also investigating why nursing assistants can now work at the facility without passing a certification test. … New documents we obtained show the Home for Veterans made a new agreement with J2S giving the company more flexibility to bring new people in. The document shows GRHV will accept CENA (Competency-Evaluated Nursing Assistants) applicants who have successfully completed their CENA training but have not yet completed their certification under federal guidelines. The applicants, according to the documents, have four months to get their certification or they must leave the GRHV. …

Privatization savings fade as vets home answers audit
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, March 26, 2016

… But the planned remedies — another pay hike for the contractor and bringing in more oversight —could mean higher costs to care for the veterans than existed before the privatization push. The audit confirmed warnings the state received about inadequate staffing and quality of care going back to 2011, when the state first tried to privatize the nursing aide positions. … Now, actions are happening so quickly that officials aren’t able to pinpoint all the associated costs, though Redford told the Free Press he believes there is “still a substantial reduction in cost” from when state employees served as nursing aides. … The state recently approved the fourth increase in the cost of the J2S contract since the company bid on the multi-year deal expected to cost less than $7 million a year. The state also granted the home authorization to hire other nursing contractors to supplement J2S, especially on weekends. A state ombudsman is now beginning to serve the home, and the administration has given a thumbs-up to a suggestion from lawmakers that a “chief compliance officer” be added to the home to make sure things are done right. … Under the original contract, J2S, which has not returned phone calls from the Free Press, had a pay range that went from $13.99 an hour for nursing aides to $24.50 for supervisors, according to records released by the union. A 2013 amendment hiked that hourly range, bringing nursing aides to a low of $14.48 for nursing aides and a high of $26.24 for supervisors. Another amendment, late in 2013, hiked the range to between $14.99 and $27.17 an hour. Then, at the start of 2015, the state hiked the pay again, to a range of $15.95 to $27.52 an hour. … Even without including the performance bonus provided for in the latest amendment, the base pay for the private nursing aides has increased about 21% since the contract began. State nursing aides were paid more than $20 an hour.

Opinion: Stop penny-pinching our veterans
Source: Michigan State Representatives Henry Yanez and David Rutledge, Detroit News, March 27, 2016

Our tax dollars should be used wisely to provide services to veterans, and not to line the pockets of corporations profiting at the expense of these veterans. The bottom line must be the excellent care of our veterans and not penny-pinching to improve a financial spreadsheet. Our veterans deserve caregivers who do their jobs well and respond to their needs. We look forward to hearing from the new interim MVAA Director James Redford about his plans. We will monitor the Grand Rapids home to ensure that residents are safe. No one should worry that if they fall they won’t receive help quickly. No one should be afraid to speak up and demand excellent care. Our veterans put the safety of their fellow citizens before their own. It’s time that we put the care of those veterans first.

Snyder: Veterans deserve better care after investigations show problems at GR Veterans Home

Source: David Bailey, WZZM, March 22, 2016
Governor Rick Snyder said in an interview Monday that veterans at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans deserve better care than what they’ve received. Gov. Snyder acknowledged the state is playing “catch-up” to make sure people are well-cared for at the facility. Snyder said he felt the state, generally, had done a lot to help veterans across the state but was disappointed at how people were being treated at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. … We asked whether we could trust J2S to perform the job until the contract with the company expires at the end of September.  The 13 Watchdog team found the company was down by at least eight employees on shifts on Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend. … Gov. Snyder told us the company is not getting paid for work it doesn’t perform and said his first goal was to make sure members get quality care.  Snyder said there are steps being taken to address issues in the contract with J2S. Citing legal issues, he wouldn’t be specific as to what would be done if the contractor continues to default.

At least 2 new hires proposed for Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, March 17, 2016

The 13 Watchdog team is learning new details regarding proposed changes at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. The House Oversight committee is recommending at least two new hires to have independent oversight over what happens in the facility. Some lawmakers have been calling for months for an ombudsman to be hired to make sure veterans are being cared for properly. We’ve been told there is a recommendation to hire a compliance officer and an ombudsman at the facility, the positions performing different duties. There are still questions how the positions will be funded, but there’s a belief that everybody involved agrees a new layer of oversight needs to be added. …

Plan to overhaul Grand Rapids Veterans Home oversight introduced
Source: Mark Tower, MLive, March 17, 2016

A 10-point plan to address the issues at the facility, one of two such state-run nursing homes for veterans in Michigan, was approved Thursday afternoon in a 6-0 vote By the state House Oversight and Ethics Committee. The plan proposes overhaul of the system to address complaints; ongoing facility inspections and reviews of governance and budgeting; employment and contracts and the handling of people who die at the home. It also calls for a comprehensive review of the veteran home model in Michigan.

Problems at Grand Rapids veterans home finally get attention they deserve
Source: State Rep. Winnie Brinks, MLive, March 4, 2016

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General found the home was understaffed 81 percent of the time, and employees frequently neglected to check on patient fall alarms while reporting that they had. Complaints of abuse and neglect were routinely ignored or improperly investigated. Many medications weren’t dispensed according to doctor’s instructions, exacting both a human and financial toll.  The findings are alarming, but not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. The Republican-led Legislature opened the door to these abuses in 2011, when they voted to privatize patient services at the home. Dedicated and highly trained state employees were replaced with contract workers who made little more than minimum wage. Complaints about the quality of patient care started pouring in soon after.

Editorial: Grand Rapids veterans home is Michigan’s latest outsourcing disaster
Source: Detroit Free Press, March 2, 2016

Until last week, when a state audit identified glaring deficiencies in the privatized service, including inadequate staffing levels, shoddy response to falls and fall alarms, failure to respond properly to abuse claims, inadequate controls for prescription medication and poor follow-through on insurance reimbursements. The auditor general’s report found that on one day, J2S was 22 workers short of the number necessary to adequately staff the home, averaging 121.3 staffers per day when 125.9 were required. Just 47% of required room checks were performed, and 33% of fall-alarm checks; even worse, the home faked documentation claiming the checks had happened. Of 10 abuse and neglect complaints reviewed by the auditor, only one was referred to the home’s nursing director for investigation. After the audit was made public, Jeff Barnes, a veteran and former Snyder campaign manager who had served as director of the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency, resigned.

Contractor admits to under-staffing Home for Veterans
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, November 3, 2015

J2S is the state contractor supplying nursing aides to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, but now the company’s leaders are admitting they are not meeting the contractual minimum standards when it comes to staffing to help our veterans. … Documents the 13 Watchdog team obtained seems to show the facility is almost always short-staffed. Official state employee logs over 268 days surveyed in 2015 show J2S fully staffed the facility at the beginning of shifts on 34 of those days, or 12.6 percent of the time. On March 1, documents show J2S was 28 employees short at the beginning of the three shifts through a 24-hour period. On July 5, the documents show J2S was short at the beginning of their three shifts by 24.5 employees.

State Senate panel studies complaints about Grand Rapids veterans home
Source:Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, October 4, 2013

Lawmakers are taking seriously complaints that care for veterans has deteriorated since state nursing assistants at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans were replaced by lower-paid workers hired by a contractor, a committee chairman said Thursday.

Among the confirmed incidents is one in which a nursing assistant placed tape over a veteran’s mouth, although it’s disputed whether the incident was part of a game or an act of cruelty.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on State Police and military affairs, said he saw some disturbing trends after loading a list of complaints against contractor J2S Group into a spreadsheet. But he hasn’t determined whether the neglect and other complaints are a result of the contractor or other “extenuating circumstances,” he said….

Democrats want investigation into quality of care for veterans after worker privatization
Source: Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio, June 28, 2013

…Dillon said they talked to about 15 veterans and four staff members. All asked to remain anonymous, Dillon said, because they feared retaliation. He said they complained of major staff turnover, and long waits for medication. Dillon said one veteran told him “the care sucks.” Brinks says she wants the department to investigate and report on conditions since the privatization….

Dillon, Brinks want state to probe quality of care at Grand Rapids veterans home
Source: Zane McMillin, mlive.com, June 27, 2013

…State officials have pushed back against those claims, and point to more than $4 million in savings by privatizing the positions. Still, an unflattering state auditor general’s report released last month found numerous problems at the home, including the lack of an on-site, board-certified psychiatrist. The report, which largely centered on inadequate protection against financial waste, also found weak controls over inventories for pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and more….

State auditor’s report details psychiatric, financial woes at Grand Rapids veterans home
Zane McMillin, mlive.com, May 1, 2013

Performance Audit: Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
Source: Michigan Office of the Auditor General, Report Number: 511-0170-12L, Released: April 2013

Commission rejects union appeal, upholds privatization of nursing aid jobs
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, April 1, 2013

The Michigan Civil Service Commission has rejected union appeals and upheld the privatization of about 150 nursing aide jobs at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. The commission heard two appeals from Michigan AFSCME Council 25 on March 20 in Lansing. The commission upheld the decision to privatize the jobs by votes of 3-1 and 2-2, according to information released today. At the hearing, veterans and state workers testified that more than 600 veterans who live at the home are endangered by low staffing levels and inadequate care under the contractor, J2S Group. The contract workers are paid about $10 an hour, roughly half what the state workers were paid, and J2S has had problems filling full-time positions and retaining employees, officials confirmed. …

Court records show how union’s fight against privatization at Grand Rapids veterans home failed
Source: Zane McMillin, mlive.com, January 23, 2013

More than 140 unionized caregivers at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans were given layoff notices this week, the culmination of a months-long battle against a plan by the state to privatize the jobs. … The ultimate undoing of the union’s fight against privatization are spelled out in state court documents, which show a legal challenge brought by veterans home resident Anthony Spallone was dropped in December 2012. …
Spallone sought to demonstrate the alleged diminished quality of care by contracted caregivers, records show. The three-judge panel ruled Spallone had failed to illustrate his claim. …