TSVH Executive Director Ed Harries said in a Wednesday press release all three veterans homes in Tennessee have passed the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Tennessee Department of Health.
Federal oversight of the state nursing homes began in 2007 after an investigation of the homes in Murfreesboro and Humboldt. At that time, the Justice Department discovered several civil rights violations, including medical and nursing care departing substantially from generally accepted professional standards.
Also, psychiatric medication practices were deficient enough to have potentially contributed to the deaths of some residents. Further, staff at the veterans homes did not adequately protect residents from injuries associated with falling.
Mike Morrow, commissioner of Finance and Administration, who holds a seat on the TSVH board, said the fact that the federal Justice Department has ended their oversight of homes at Murfreesboro and Humboldt is a huge success.
“It is a success management and employees should be proud of,” Morrow said. “Over the past five years, the TSVH board has taken steps to assume oversight and management of the homes, but it’s the dedicated employees at each of the homes who have strived to achieve quality care for our veterans.”
The Justice Department conducted its investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to investigate and root out systemic deficiencies in care, rather than focus on individual civil rights violations. The investigation led to procedural, operational and management changes at the homes.
In addition to the federal review, the Tennessee Department of Health conducted annual surveys of the facilities and found only minor deficiencies which were immediately corrected.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also conducted an annual operational and clinical reviews of each of the three TSVH homes in June and November and found no significant issues or concerns.
TSVH Board Chairman Bob Tuke said they have worked hard to take the homes into state supervision and turn them into operations that reflect best practices.
“The best result, though, is assuring that our veterans are getting the care they and their families deserve, and we intend to continue to focus on providing the best for those who served for us all,” he said.
The newest home, in Knoxville, opened in 2006, while the Humboldt facility opened in 1996 and Murfreesboro in 1991.
The TSVH board took over management of the homes in 2005, after twice contracting with private companies. Each facility has 140 beds. Harries said in October there were only seven empty beds in the three state homes in Murfreesboro, Humbolt and Knoxville. The proposed Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home in Cleveland would be between 99 and 108 beds based on the population statistics.
The local effort to build a home began in earnest with the formation of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council in 2008. Council members were selected from 12 veterans service organizations, and appointed by the city and county to advance the dream of the late John Simmons who advocated building a state veterans home in Bradley County.
Since then, the proposed home has moved up to 47th on the national priority list published by the Veterans Administration. The list serves as the VA’s basis for awarding state home grants in 2011.
The money will not be allocated by the federal government until after Jan. 1, 2011. A home in Montgomery County is ranked 41st. It is the first home on the list for new construction.
The top 40 projects include one new construction in Alabama that was partially funded in 2010; three life-safety issues and 36 renovation projects. There are 49 projects in Group I totaling an estimated $296 million.
In 2010, the VA allocated $261 million for renovations and new construction, according to state Veterans Board member Joe Davis. The VA would have to allocate approximately $227 in order to fund the home in the local 2011 cycle.