Officials tout improvements at veterans home
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Officials say financial problems at the state veterans home in Minneapolis are being addressed under new leadership.
But in testifying before a Senate committee Tuesday, state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Clark Dyrud said he didn't expect state lawmakers to trust what he said.
"You've been given many promises in the past. I understand that we have to earn your trust," Dyrud said.
Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division listened to an auditor detail the findings of a report released in November that showed that cash at the home was unlocked, pharmaceutical supplies were loosely managed and too many workers had authority to take a large amount of state money to the bank.
Auditors also raised the issue of excessive overtime hours, saying it could affect the quality of care at the home. According to the audit, some nurses worked more overtime hours than regular hours.
"That probably had an impact on the care," said audit manager Mike Hassing. "We question whether it was physically possible to work that many hours."
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, says she's happy to hear that things have improved. But she says she's tired of hearing the same excuses from officials that the problems occurred because the home didn't have the right leaders in place.
"That's what we always hear, 'Oh well, we didn't have the right people,' and in some cases they have gone through three, four, five people," said Berglin, the committee chairwoman.
The state dissolved the state veterans home board in 2007 after problems at the Minneapolis home. Management of the five state homes was turned over to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
Dyrud acknowledged that the latest audit was troubling.
"We were aware that there were issues," he said. "We just were not aware of the depth of them. There is just no excuse."
Among the changes, overtime hours now have to be preapproved and other monitoring policies are in place.
Dyrud says the monitoring has shown improvements in care and safety at the home. Fall-related injuries are on the decline, and resident health and satisfaction is up, Dyrud said.
In two weeks, a team of health officials from the U.S. Department of Justice will begin an on-site investigation to see if the Minneapolis home still has problems in quality of care.
Officials still must decide whether the homes should shift to Medicaid for federal funding rather than the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)