In response to a call by UE Local 170, Governor Tomblin has ordered an investigation of the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility. UE Local 170 called for the investigation after media coverage of ongoing staff shortages and retaliation against a veteran at the facility who had spoken with state nursing home surveyors about inadequate care due staff shortages.
“Over the last several years, UE Local 170 and our members who work at the VA Nursing Facility have repeatedly raised our concerns about staff shortages and mandatory overtime with the facility’s administrator, Kevin Crickard, but he has failed to correct these problems,” said UE Local 170 President Donna Morgan in a letter to Governor Tomblin on April 25. “It’s time for you to act. West Virginia veterans at the facility deserve better.”
In early April, WBOY-TV aired news stories about understaffing and mandatory overtime and its effects on the quality of care that veterans were receiving. The WBOY-TV news coverage also included the serious allegation that the VA Nursing Facility management was retaliating against one of its residents, Stephen Newlon, a Vietnam Veteran, because he had spoken with surveyors from the West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLC) and WBOY-TV last October about his concerns over the poor quality of care that veterans were receiving due to ongoing staff shortages.
On April 1, 2013, Newlon received a letter from the facility's administrator, Kevin Crickard, informing him that he had to be off the premises by May 6. "I feel like I'm being retaliated against for the two incidents where I spoke with the surveyors and Channel 12," Newlon told WBOY-TV.
In another WBOY-TV news story, a former employee said that ongoing staff shortages were affecting the quality of care the residents receive. "The lack of help. The lack of caring for the residents. The cutting of the staff for the care of the residents. Two people for 30 residents. When we went to work there we were told we would never have more than four or five residents," the former employee said.
UE Local 170 will be monitoring the state’s investigation and will continue to fight for adequate staffing levels and an end to mandatory overtime to ensure that West Virginia veterans at the facility receive the highest quality care that they deserve.