- In 2017, the VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System facility in Marion was one of 60 veterans’ nursing homes across the country to receive the lowest ranking of one out of five stars.
- The Indiana facility rated worse on more than half of 11 key quality of care and staffing indicators ranked by the Department of Veteran Affairs’ system.
- The quality of care score conclusions were released by national news outlets on June 25, 2018 after internal government documents revealed the VA had been tracking and unjustly withholding data on the quality of care received at VA nursing homes for years.
- Administrators of the Indiana nursing home say VA patients have more complex medical and behavior conditions than typical residents of nursing homes such as mental illness or terminal illness, making it more challenging to provide a comparison of quality measures against private sector care facilities.
Hidden Data Says Veterans Suffer at Marion VA Facility
On June 25, national news outlets USA Today and The Boston Globe, published data showing that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) had been tracking and withholding statistics on the quality of care provided at VA nursing homes. The ‘hidden’ information included data from internal DVA documents of 133 VA care facilities and the more than 46,000 patients who reside there.
The reports show that more than two-thirds of U.S. VA nursing homes were “more likely to have issues related to serious bedsores and residents who will suffer serious pain, than their counterparts in private nursing homes across the country.” VA officials in general are not in agreement with the news outlets’ findings and also say that its nursing home system, overall, “compares closely” with private nursing homes.
The VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System facility in Marion was one of the lowest ranking nursing homes in the country earning just one out of five stars overall at the time of review (December 2017) and scored significantly worse than their private counterparts on nine of 11 key indicators, including:
- the number of residents in pain is nearly double national averages
- rates of use of anti-psychotic drug prescriptions are significantly higher than other VA centers
- residents’ general deterioration of physical or mental functions from admission to discharge again ranks below quality standard measures
The 180-bed Marion facility, which serves an average of 88 veterans a day, received 2 stars overall, 2 for quality of care, 5 for staffing and 1 for unannounced on-site surveys.
Since the decision by the news outlets to publish the data, the VA has begun to release information and update the public by providing some of the once hidden care ratings on its website. The Marion home has now moved from the one-star care rating to an improved, yet still dismal two-star facility and local lawmakers have made several scheduled stops to tour the veterans care center. The agency is yet to release more detailed information, such as rates of infection and injury and continues to respond to the low ratings stating VA nursing homes “serve a much higher proportion of residents with conditions such as prostrate obstruction, spinal cord injury, mental illness, homelessness, PTSD, combat injury, terminal illness and other conditions rarely seen in private nursing homes.”
Our attorneys always suggest family members do a fair amount of research before picking a facility for their loved one. This new information may be a helpful resource.
Neglect of Nursing Home Patients All Too Common in Indiana
VA centers aren’t the only care communities lagging behind with low quality ratings though. Indiana’s long-term care has long been ranked as some of the worst in the nation because of understaffing, high eviction ratings, inadequate training, heavy use of chemical restraints, over-worked and underpaid employees, all factors contributing to overall negligent care.
Sadly, the abuse and neglect issues that occur at nursing home or care facility leave residents ignored, disregarded, and isolated against their will and some abuse can be as extreme as assault and battery. Neglect occurrences have also been reported when a resident has been withheld basic needs like food, water, and medication as well as staff failing to change bedding or take care of hygiene needs or protect against falls. These types of abuse and neglect will always be damaging to a nursing home resident and leave lasting impacts on the quality of physical and emotional health to all involved.
Family members and nursing home staff can look for abuse and neglect signs such as:
- unusual bruising or bleeding
- open wounds, or bed sores
- cuts, burns and abrasions
- sudden and unexplained change in weight
- soiling, poor hygiene, smell of urine or feces
- loss of hair
- torn, stained, or bloody clothing or bedding
- emotional distress
Less obvious signs may be:
- listlessness or unresponsiveness
- infantile or other strange behaviors
- physical or emotional withdrawal
- disappearance of personal items
- sudden and unusual financial transactions
If you sense abuse is occurring or a resident has started to show signs of neglect, document everything and always notify the facility management and demand action. If necessary, remove your loved one, contact an attorney or local ombudsmen, and report any wrongdoing to authorities. Nursing home staff are protected from whistleblowing issues with care and should not fear reporting any occurrences of neglect of abuse.
While there are several top care providers throughout the state, our experience has proven there are more mediocre or downright scary facilities here in Indiana, including the VA home in Marion. It will be up to you to keep long term care leaders accountable to ensure your loved ones are taken care of.
Veterans Deserve Better
It may be extremely difficult to think of a veteran in a nursing home not being properly cared for, but this data shows it is happening. If a loved one is showing signs of neglect, complains about the care being received in a long-term care facility or nursing home, appears altered in emotional or physical ways, or if you fear they have been mistreated or abused, Wagner Reese can fight for justice in your situation. Call our offices today at 888-710-9377 to schedule a risk-free consultation.
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