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Democrats want investigation into quality of care for veterans after worker privatization

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Update 4p.m.

The home’s administrator Sara Dunne says the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs just completed an annual inspection of the home in April. “They will not leave the homes if they feel there’s sub-standard being provided,” Dunne said.

There is no abuse and neglect going on at the home,” Dunne said, “There’s very strong language of what abuse and neglect is in long term care and there have been no instances of that at all.”

She says this call for investigation hurts the veteran’s communities, family-members with veteran’s in the home and all contracted nursing assistants (not just those at this facility but any nursing facility).

“It’s saying that because they get paid a lesser wage or that they are a contract company that they will provide lower care,” Dunne said.

House Democrats say quality of care for veterans at a state-run home in Grand Rapids has suffered since nursing aides were privatized this spring.

The move was expected to save the State’s Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs $4 million a year.

State Representative Brandon Dillion (D-Grand Rapids) held a press conference in front of the veterans home in Grand Rapids this morning.

He and other lawmakers took an official tour of it this spring.

“I think there was a feeling that we weren’t getting the whole story; that we were being told that everything was well and it was kind of a production that we were being sold,” Dillon said.

“They told us we were welcome back at any time, so we did,” State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said.

The two made an unannounced visit to the home earlier this month.

Dillon said they talked to about 15 veterans and four staff members. All asked to remain anonymous, Dillon said, because they feared retaliation.

Dillon said one veteran told him "the care sucks."

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.

“I want somebody to be able to look at this who’s concerned primarily about the quality of care and not necessarily about covering their own reputation or making a dollar,” Brinks said.

“The men and women who put their lives on the line to serve our country deserve the absolute best care we can give them,” House Democratic Leader  Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said in a written statement,

The judge said if veterans feel they're getting sub-standard care they're free to leave.

“After hearing so many complaints and concerns from both veterans and staff members, we need to know how privatization has impacted residents at the home and whether their quality of care is being compromised.”

A veteran filed a lawsuit in 2011 to try to prevent the privatization of nursing aides. That case was dismissed in late 2012.

Living at the home is voluntary.

The judge said if veterans feel they’re getting sub-standard care they’re free to leave. The court also said allegations of inadequate care from a few nursing assistants doesn’t mean they all provide inadequate care.

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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