State officials to look into allegations of staff shortages

The Exponent-Telegraph, May 9, 2013  view pdf

 
by Erin Beck and Matt Harvey Staff Writers 

CLARKSBURG — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has called for an investigation into allegations of staff shortages at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg.

Investigators from the state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification will be “boots on the ground (today) to do an assessment and evaluation of the facility,” gubernatorial spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said.

“Anytime someone has a question about our veterans or the care or treatment of our veterans, it’s always a good time to ask questions,” Shuler Goodwin said. “The governor just wants to make sure everything is running smoothly at the facility, and most of all that our veterans are receiving the quality care that they need. And,that’s why he wants this done.”

UE Local 170, West Virginia Public Workers Union, recently called for the governor to investigate working conditions at the nursing home.

Union members believe that veterans living at the nursing home are receiving substandard care because of staff shortages and mandated overtime hours, according to Local 170 President Donna Morgan. Morgan said she appreciated the governor’s attention to the matter.

“Any attention that it brings to the current problems at the veterans nursing home is good, and hopefully some of the problems that are in existence there can be corrected,” she said.

The state-run veterans nursing home falls under the direction of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance.

The department’s public affairs coordinator, Heather Miles, said the department welcomes guidance from the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification.

“Anytime that a veteran, a resident, a family member, the media, anyone in the community has a concern about any of our facilities, we welcome those thoughts, and we are always more than willing to look at them,” Miles said. “It’s another opportunity to become stronger.”

Complaints about working conditions at the nursing home have been an ongoing issue for two to three years, according to Del. Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison.

According to Iaquinta, the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification has checked out the facility before and did not discover any violations, but he welcomed another visit.

Iaquinta is chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Keith Gwinn, cabinet secretary for the Department of Veterans Assistance, and Billy Wayne Bailey Jr., the department’s deputy cabinet secretary, visited the nursing home during the recent legislative session at the request of members of the Legislature, Iaquinta said.

But the pay scale at the nursing home is the underlying issue, according to Iaquinta.

“Dr. Crickard (the nursing home administrator) had approached the Legislature about being just a little more competitive,” Iaquinta said.

Iaquinta said the pay rates have been increased, but state-run nursing homes can’t compete with federal facilities.

Employees at the nursing home say there have been no pay raises for at least two years, according to Morgan.

“We would all like a pay raise, but that is not the real issue,” Morgan said. “The real issue is mandated overtime and understaffing.”

A visit from the Department of Veterans Assistance or Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification might not uncover certain issues, including mandatory overtime, according to Morgan.

Sufficient staff might be present at the time of the visit, she said.

But “are they people who have been there for 16 hours or are they people who have been there for 8 hours?” Morgan asked.

Staff writer Erin Beck can be reached at (304)626-1439 or by email at ebeck@exponent-telegram.com.