Oklahoma House of Representatives
October 2, 2012
NOTE: HD video clips of the study are currently available at ftp://www.okhouse.tv/. User name/Password: okhouse / tvbroadcast. Folder Name: VeteranCare
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
State Rep. Richard Morrissette
Contact: Jacklyn Brink-Rosen
Phone: (405) 250-6263
State Rep. Joe Dorman
Phone: (405) 833-1117
House Studies Veteran Care
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cases of abuse and neglect at Oklahoma’s seven long-term care veteran centers may be the result of poor policy at the administrative level and poor pay and lack of training among those who work in entry-level positions, according to testimony received today by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
State Reps. Richard Morrissette and Joe Dorman requested a study of the quality of care and process of accountability at the centers after a Journal Record story chronicled cases of unreported abuse and neglect.
“Although those officials we talked with today framed these cases as isolated, I suspect a more prevalent problem,” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “I do not like it when I see victims saying there is a widespread problem and officials taking the opposite position. I think we need leaders who push and encourage an atmosphere of prompt service and accountability. It starts with leaders and we also need to do what we can as lawmakers to ensure the proper accountability is in place.”
“Veterans have made great sacrifices on our behalf and we have an obligation to provide them with a high quality of life in these homes,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “It doesn’t matter if the problem is widespread or isolated, it is obvious that the current system needs an overhaul and it is up to lawmakers to change the system”
Norman Veteran Center resident Mike Simmons and advocates Susan Simmons and Mike Callahan gave testimony regarding the cover-up of abuse at the Norman and Claremore centers. Administrators from the Sulphur, Lawton and Talihina centers spoke about the complaint and response process at their individual centers and the policies they are hoping to institute to address failures in the complaint process.
Certified nurses’ aides were frequently mentioned as the entry-level position against whom complaints are made. These employees make approximately $11 per hour and typically earn their license in a two-to-three-month time period.
“We need to find ways to improve the pay scale on these jobs so we can get the best qualified employees hired to care for these veterans,” said Dorman. “We also must look at better ways to provide oversight, such as creating new written reviews on the centers and making them available for the public to see how a center measures up to private nursing homes.”
“We heard about the need for proper pay and advancement opportunities to recruit top-level professionals and we also discussed training, screening and whether there is a need for a more transparent system, through the use of cameras or other recording devices. For those policies in the implementation stage at individual centers, perhaps those could be passed on to all seven centers,” said Morrissette. “It’s a multi-faceted problem.”