Health Care in a Veterans’ Center Is Not the Same as in a Nursing Home

By State Rep. Brian Renegar, DVM

McALESTER (17 April 2017) — Following is a statement release that I, along with State Reps. Dale Derby, R-Owasso, Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and Chuck Hoskin, D-Vinita, delivered to the media recently.

When our soldiers go off to war we tell them, “You take care of us and we will take care you.” We have committed to our veterans that they will receive the highest level of care. The highest level of care in Oklahoma has always been our seven veterans’ centers and the medical amenities they provide. These amenities have included physical therapy, pharmacies, EKGs to monitor heart medications, and blood chemistry labs to monitor their kidney and other organ functions. The kidney function tests are important to gauge what type of IV fluids are to be administered, and it is imperative that they get results in one to two hours, not 24 hours.

Now come Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs directives that the EKG machines are to be locked up and blood chemistry machines are to be taken away. There is a move to decrease the level of care for our veterans and move our veterans’ centers to the level of care of nursing homes. But why?

In 2015 when Director Major General Deering and Deputy Director Colonel Elliott took over the ODVA, the software CPRS was going out of date and they faced the task of spending a large sum of money to update it. CPRS is the same program that the Federal VA uses and can communicate with the Federal VA.

At that same time they hired Tina Williams, an RN, to be in charge of the healthcare day-to-day function of the centers. She previously had a record of running nursing homes and making questionable decisions. She had also worked for the State Health Department. She directed Deering and Elliott, who had NO healthcare experience, to a software program: “Point Click Care.” With Deering and Elliott not having any knowledge of healthcare, they chose Point Click Care.

Unfortunately Point Click Care is software designed for nursing homes. It does not have codes for the medical amenities that veterans’ centers provide at a higher level of care. So the answer to our question seems to be that they chose the wrong software, as they are determined to lower the standard of care at our veterans’ centers down to a nursing home status.

What deleterious effects are there toward moving to a nursing home status? First, dementia veterans are adversely affected by any move, even a trip to an emergency room or other medical provider for an EKG or other tests. When treating dehydration, healthwise, it is unfeasible to draw blood and send it to a private lab and get results 24 hours later, when an in-house test will give you kidney function results within an hour. THIS is a lowering of level of healthcare for our veterans.

We believe that Director Deering put his healthcare trust with the wrong person.
We are, therefore, asking the Attorney General to launch an investigation by his office of the ODVA and request the State Auditor to perform an emergency audit of the ODVA.
In addition, we request that the ODVA return the EKG machines to the healthcare providers at the veterans’ centers, allow blood chemistry machines to remain in place and “freeze” any termination of healthcare providers at our veterans’ centers, until the investigation is complete.

We believe there is an appearance that the bill to close Talihina (SB 544) is a smokescreen for reducing medical amenities at all seven veterans’ centers.
If the ODVA says that the reduction of these services is to save money, ask them how Deering, Elliot and Williams received a combined total of $25,000 in raises in the last six months, yet the Legislature cut the ODVA $6.7 million in the last 24 months and in the face of a nearly $1 billion deficit by the state this year.

I believe this is of utmost importance and I believe you need to be kept aware of the changes.

Unfortunately there is a pattern of behavior by our Governor that is not good for Oklahomans. Gov. Fallin appoints as Director of Corrections Joe Allbaugh, who has no experience in Corrections; he immediately moved to increase the privatization of Corrections.

She also appoints General Myles Deering, who was our Adjutant General but has no experience in healthcare, to head the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs our seven veteran healthcare centers. Since he has been there he has privatized the employment for the veterans’ centers and now he is in the process of privatizing the laboratory services previously being performed at the centers.

Third, Governor Fallin appoints Deby Snodgrass, who was an accountant at Chesapeake Energy, to run our Department of Tourism. Snodgrass is moving to close our state parks because they are not making a profit. Our state parks were never created to make a profit but rather to draw urban and out-of-state people to our rural areas to increase our commerce. Snodgrass refuses to accept this concept. Do you know why? Because she had NO experience in tourism when she took over the Department. Do we see a pattern?

On another subject, I will not vote for a pay raise for teachers if the Legislature cuts funding to our public school classrooms. And I am proud to let you know a huge percentage of teachers tell me that’s the way they feel, also.

The talk around the Capitol is on the budget for next year, but I am more concerned about our funding for this year, especially in education. Our area schools have been notified by the State Department of Education of a cut in funding for April, on top of the revenue failure, the reduction of 1017 funds and the March cut in funding.

The total loss for McAlester is $397,130 for this period, and for Wilburton, $114,374, just to name a couple. Of the $397,130 cut to McAlester, $176,880 comes in part from the corporate tax decrease, and of the $114,374 cut to Wilburton, $51,561 comes in part from the corporate tax decrease. The decrease in these corporate taxes is due to tax credits turned into our treasury instead of actual dollar payments. That is why I harp on corporate tax credits.