Vet flap gets personal
The public flap over chronically abusive and shoddy care at the beleaguered Fayetteville Veterans Home took a personal turn the other day. That’s when a state veterans official basically accused the president of the Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents of having a vendetta against the home’s current administrators.
Charles Johnson, the deputy director for Veterans Affairs, reacted to critical comments about the home’s administration made by Martha Deaver, who leads the advocacy group, by saying in a news story: “It just sounds to me that there’s a personal vendetta from this advocacy group against some of our personnel. We think they are working extremely hard up there. We have our challenges. Every nursing home does.”
Now Deaver wants an apology. Knowing Deaver’s penchant for defending nursing home residents, I’m not surprised by her reaction. In fact, I’d have been shocked had Deaver, who’s been nationally recognized for her diligence, let any insult to her motives go unanswered.
In the same story, Mark Diggs also was openly critical of the repetitive horror stories documented at the Fayetteville facility. Diggs is a decorated combat veteran who has been inducted into the state’s Military Hall of Fame. He founded Honor Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit that assists homeless vets. He’s been working alongside Deaver’s group to act as watchdog over the myriad woes at the state’s veterans home.
This dispute arose when a story by reporter Chelsea Boozer revealed a state inspection report that described a recent five-day incident at the Fayetteville home in which a patient’s wound care proved substandard. That event triggered a complaint by the patient and an ongoing investigation by the state Board of Nursing. The violation was the third this year for the Fayetteville Veterans Home. The others involved a male patient’s death and an elderly female resident whose arm was broken by improper restraining methods.
Little wonder Deaver has been publicly on the warpath against the facility and those responsible for managing it. That includes the highest levels of the state Veterans Affairs Department. She and Diggs both have said the home’s administrators should be canned. It’s hard to disagree, considering such a miserable track record in less than a year. In keeping with the status quo of a bureaucratic agency (and rounding up the usual responses), Johnson said the Fayetteville home submitted another plan of corrective action covering the latest violation. Yawn.
Meanwhile, here’s what Deaver had to tell me about Johnson’s indirect shout-out alleging her “personal vendetta”:
“Mr. Johnson seems to be very confused. For both Mark Diggs and me, our motivation and focus is to ensure our honored veterans receive the respect, dignity and care they have earned and deserve instead of the documented repeated abuse, neglect and substandard health care they are receiving at our state-owned, state-run Veterans Home.
“Mr. Johnson’s rash personal accusations and ad hominem attacks are made either out of a self-imposed ignorance of facts, or is an attempt to shift attention from those with direct management, authority and oversight of the Fayetteville Veterans Home.”
Read on. Deaver’s only tuning up, which naturally makes me wonder if Johnson wishes he’d never been quoted.
“Mr. Johnson—as well as anyone else—can readily obtain a copy of the 15 formal [Office of Long Term Care] investigative reports that clearly [document] the systemic and chronic abuse, neglect and substandard health care provided at the facility he and his superiors are charged with overseeing. If Mr. Johnson is truly ignorant about these reports, we highly recommend Mr. Johnson take the time and effort to read and analyze these reports before he makes any other public statements.”
Deaver goes on to say she and others see Johnson’s statements as “misleading and deceptive,” much as the comments Johnson made at the 2013 Commanders Briefing a few weeks back. Deaver was referring particularly to Johnson’s comment that the Fayetteville facility’s “latest overall review … is the best the home has received in years.”
She said that while her organization agrees the state’s June inspection was indeed one of the best in years, the same report cited three serious violations dealing with critical areas of medication errors and sanitation.
And while the facility has lowered its medication error rate from 26.3 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2013, that rate is still above the 5 percent or less considered minimally acceptable. “We’d characterize that as embarrassing,” said Deaver.
This crusader for nursing-home residents said our state has documented hundreds of pages of serious medical problems at the Fayetteville home, many of which were repeated. “Both of us [Deaver and Diggs] consider Mr. Johnson’s personal public attacks without merit or substance and consider them insulting, and believe, if he has integrity whatsoever, he will offer just as public an apology as his public insult was.”
Hmmm. I don’t know, Charles. I believe were I you, I’d probably take the lady up on that request. Just sayin’.