It’s been months since a controversy over lack of care ensued at the St. Louis Veterans Home, but residents and families are finally seeing the improvements and commission changes they’ve been asking for all along.
At a meeting with veterans and their families on Saturday, Missouri Veterans Commission Chair Tim Noonan, Interim Executive Director Grace Link and St. Louis Veterans Home Interim Administrator Stan Smith provided an update on procedural and staffing changes that are already resulting in significant progress at the home.
The most significant changes and results since Smith started on Jan. 2 include a reduced involuntary overtime by 92 percent among direct care staff since December, a key area of complaints among employees.
Through a new, flexible scheduling process, in a three-week period, the St. Louis Home has been able to increase the number of direct care staffing hours by almost 80 hours per day, the equivalent of adding 10 eight hour nursing shifts to existing floor staff.
Careforce Elite, a professional, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) staffing firm, has been providing 12 CNAs a week, over a three-week period since Jan. 18, totaling 36 CNAs. After 90 days, those CNAs have the opportunity to become full-time employees of the St. Louis Home.
The St. Louis Home is also getting more help from their current staff across the board. Staff is now being cross-trained in key areas involving assistance to veterans in order to provide better care.
The change is already receiving strong, positive response involving dining services. Since other employees are now assisting veterans in need of extra help in the dining room, direct care staff can focus more on the clinical needs of veterans who require more advanced assistance.
At Saturday’s meeting, veterans and family members expressed their strong support for the changes taking place.
“If I want to go through the line [to get my meal], I go through the line. If I want to be served at the table, I’m served at the table. The tables are cleaned immediately so you always have a clean place to sit,” veteran Harold Lee said in a statement. “We don’t have to wait if we need help.”
Link told the veterans and their families the commission is looking at potential long-term changes at the home and Missouri’s six other veterans homes, with an eye to updating them based on input already received from employees. She said she is conducting a salary review of staff at all veterans homes to bring employee salaries more in line with the private sector.
Link is also reviewing how routine inspections and reviews of the Veterans homes are conducted internally to ensure they are effective at identifying deficiencies and potential areas of concern.
Chairman Noonan thanked Link and Smith for their work, especially the productive and rapid changes they have driven that are focused on improving care for the veterans not only in the St. Louis Home, but across the entire Missouri Veterans Commission. Noonan also thanked the veterans and families for giving the new team a chance to earn back trust and deliver results. He said he is committed to transparency and metrics that track outcomes.
“It’s rewarding to see positive change and feedback in just a few weeks,” Link said in a statement. “Culture change in an organization is not always easy, but we will continue to focus on improving the quality of Veterans care and remain committed to transparency and open communication with Veterans and their families. We really appreciate the hard work of the committed Veterans Home employees.”
The Missouri Veterans Commission, a division of the Department of Public Safety, operates seven State Veterans Homes, five State Veterans Cemeteries, and the Veterans Services Program. The Commission is committed to honoring and serving Missouri’s Veterans whose dedication and sacrifices have preserved our nation and its freedoms. For more information about the Missouri Veterans Commission programs, call (573) 751-3779, online at http://www.mvc.dps.mo.gov, or facebook.com/MissouriVeteransCommission.