Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Vet flap gets per­sonal

- Mike Master­son’s col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-gazette. Email him at mike­mas­ter­son10@hot­mail.com. Read his blog at mike­mas­ter­son­s­mes­sen­ger.com.

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’.

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