Saturday, 04 February 2023

Senator calls for audit of Yountville Veterans Home

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) announced Monday that she has asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) to investigate the adequacy of health care and accommodation of residents’ disabilities at the California Veterans Home in Yountville.


“It is an embarrassment that our veterans, who served our country honorably, have been treated so poorly in their time of need,” declared Wiggins. “This audit will serve as a blueprint to correct deficiencies and bring back the high standards of care our veterans so richly deserve.


“Residents and staff have reported a wide range of issues, including disabled residents that have been left unattended lying in their feces, visually-impaired veterans who have been unable to ascertain their food choices in the mess hall or decipher home communications, and inadequacy of medical equipment resulting exacerbating injuries and perhaps death,” Wiggins said.


In her letter to the JLAC chair, Wiggins said that based on the volume and diversity of complaints that have come from residents of the home, as well as testimony by Dr. David Salopek, chairman of the Yountville Veterans Home Allied Council at an April 24, 2007 hearing of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, she “lacks confidence that the California Department of Veterans Affairs is meeting its mission, goals, or vision relating to the health care and quality of life at the Yountville Veterans Home.”


“Residents have also complained of violations of their residents’ rights, disrespect for residents and their quality of life issues,” Wiggins added. “Physicians have reported the assignment of an excessive number of patients, leading to doctor burn-out and potentially inadequate care. The last thing we’d want to see is a Walter Reed type of situation at Yountville.”


The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is charged with ascertaining facts, and making reports and recommendations to the Legislature concerning the state, its agencies, departments and political subdivisions of the state. Independently, and through the State Auditor, JLAC investigates, studies, analyzes and assesses the financial practices and the performance of existing governmental and/or publicly created entities in California – in order to assist those entities in fulfilling the purpose for which they were created by the Legislature.


The committee is comprised of seven members of the Senate (including Wiggins), and seven members of the Assembly.


In her letter, Wiggins asked JLAC to direct the office of the State Auditor to investigate and then report its findings and recommendations on the following:


  • The adequacy of the number of physicians and other medical personnel needed to provide adequate care to the Home’s population;


  • Complaints by residents and personnel;


  • The Home’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with emphasis on accommodation of the mobility impaired and the visually impaired;


  • The need for a hospital and health care administrator dedicated exclusively to coordinating and managing all health care facilities and related personnel (note: Wiggins is carrying a bill, SB 565, to create the position);


  • The absence of a skilled nursing facility administrator at Yountville (the Department of Veterans Affairs established the position, but then redirected it away from Yountville);


  • Personnel shortages and the quality of health care;


  • Utilization and enforcement of the Code of Conduct by the Home’s administration.


“Providing high-quality long term care for America’s heroes, our state’s elderly and infirm veterans should be a top priority for California,” Wiggins said. “We are requesting that this audit be given priority status with the Auditor General to insure that our veterans quickly receive the care they have so rightfully earned. This audit will be a valuable tool to help us determine what actions, we as policymakers and the Department of Veterans Affairs, need to make.”


The Yountville Veterans Home is a 550-acre community of and for veterans. Some 1,200 veterans (both men and women) live at the home.


Founded in 1884, Yountville is the oldest and largest veteran’s home in the United States. It currently provides 713 residential accommodations, 48 residential care (assisted living) accommodations and three levels of in-patient health care: 169 beds for intermediate care, 230 beds for skilled nursing care, and 20 beds in general acute care. July 2007 marked the opening of the new Alzheimer’s/dementia unit, which will ultimately accommodate 75 residents.


On its Web site, the California Department of Veterans Affairs says its mission is “to provide the state's aged or disabled veterans with rehabilitative, residential, and medical care and services in a home-like environment at the California Veterans Homes.”


The site also indicates that the department’s vision is that “California veterans will live the highest quality of life with dignity and honor,” with the goal of providing “high quality advocacy and services for all California Veterans; provide the best long-term care and enhanced quality of life for all State Veterans Home residents; maintain effective communication with all staff and stake holders; and use resources wisely.”


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