Plan To Close Barstow Veterans Home Criticized
The Department of Veterans Affairs' plan to close the skilled nursing unit of Barstow Veterans Home was criticized at a meeting on Friday by a group of about 200 employees, patients, relatives and city officials, the Los Angeles Times reports (Sahagun/Romney, Los Angeles Times, 4/5). On March 27, the department announced plans to relocate 94 residents of the home's skilled nursing ward because of repeated violations of federal standards and state fines. The next day the Department of Health Services fined the Barstow veterans home a record $100,000 -- the maximum the state can issue -- for the death of an 80-year-old veteran whose declining health was not reported to his physician by the home's staff. In February, DHS fined the facility $95,000 for the December death of a resident, whose heart failure resulted from the interaction of two medications. In June 2000, DHS issued a fine of $64,999 for inadequate care that led to the deaths of two residents. In addition, the federal government in 2000 also decertified the Barstow veterans home as a skilled nursing facility, a move that cost the facility $5 million in federal Medicare and Medi-Cal funds (California Healthline, 3/31).
In Friday's meeting, Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale "condemned" a recent VA memo suggesting that the veterans home could not recruit and retain a sufficient number of qualified licensed nurses because of the geographic location of the rural, 20,000-person community, the Times reports. Dale said, "The Barstow Veterans Home was built as a complete care facility, not a satellite," adding that department officials are "blaming Barstow for [their] lack of capability to provide proper care." Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) said the Veterans Department was "putting the lives of veterans at risk by packing them in vans and then moving them to other veterans homes halfway across California." However, Andrew Kotch, a spokesperson for the department, said, "Recent events are what triggered this ultimate decision to close the (skilled nursing facility) at Barstow. You can draw your own conclusion to the question of the fitness of current Barstow workers to continue providing care." Kotch added, "There's still staff there that are qualified and capable of handling the situation" for the patients not in the skilled nursing unit who will remain at the facility (Los Angeles Times, 4/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.