Veterans Home Workers Call For Better Staffing, Financial Management

Apr 5, 2013

Workers at the Vermont Veterans Home say the Bennington facility needs better financial management and better staffing.

The nursing home has projected an estimated $3.5 million budget shortfall for 2014.

Unionized caregivers at the home complained of understaffing before troubles that threatened to close the facility last year.

In September, the federal government threatened to take away the home's certification because of deficiencies that were found in a series of inspections.

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That would have meant that most of the Veterans Home's funding, its funding through Medicare and Medicaid,would have been lost.

The home eventually won a passing score from regulators and its funding continued.

But workers say the home is still short-staffed, and that mandatory overtime and double shifts are still a problem.

Obviously if you're having to impose mandatory overtimes, you're not having enough staff on the floors,says Doug Gibson.

Gibson is with the Vermont State Employees Union, which represents 200 workers at the home.

He says the workers are also concerned about the home's projected revenue shortfall. He says administrators miscalculated how big the shortfall would be in a report to lawmakers earlier this year

And we really need to resolve the problems, Gibson says, And fix them in a way where we don't continually have to go down this road of worrying about citations or worrying about federal funding and worrying about the well-being of our veterans.

Former Bennington lawmaker Joe Krawczyk, a retired Army Colonel,stepped in as the Veteran's Home chairman during last year's difficulties.

He acknowledges that problems remain, including new deficiencies that were identified this year.

But he says the home got a clean bill of health in an inspection this week. And Krawczyk says staff numbers are well within state and federal guidelines.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid, the agency that controls most of the funding they've given our staff a five-star rating, the highest rating they can give, Krawczyk says.

The state Senate has asked for a report analyzing whether the state should continue to operate the home. Krawczyk says he's eager to see the results of that analysis.