Veterans Homes Fix Could Cost Millions - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Veterans Homes

Veterans Homes Fix Could Cost Millions

Dave Goetz Dave Goetz
Charles Compton Charles Compton
Debbie Compton Debbie Compton
Dave Lawson Dave Lawson
(Story created: 6:29:07)

The problems at Tennessee's veterans homes could end up costing you a lot of money.

The Bredesen administration now says it's ready to let new patients into one of the nursing homes.

But the two other Tennessee State Veterans Homes -- including the troubled Murfreesboro facility -- still face serious problems.

Now, the state says these problems are going to cost millions of dollars to fix.

This comes less than two weeks after Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered all three veterans homes closed to new admissions because of what he called serious problems within the system.

"We have an obligation to these people," state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz tells NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus.

Goetz says the state will now spend whatever it takes to fix the problems at the Tennessee State Veterans Homes -- problems that a NewsChannel 5 investigation first exposed more than a year ago, problems with basic patient care, even allegations of abuse and neglect.

"We are going to address it now," Goetz says.

That's why, he says, in the final days of this last legislative session, the governor asked lawmakers to spend more than $3 million of taxpayers' money on the homes.

In the last year, the Murfreesboro facility has been cited twice by the state for critical violations.

And the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation into the homes in both Murfreesboro and Humboldt.

When those federal inspectors went in earlier this year, the state had an outside team follow them to find out exactly what the biggest problems were.

What they found, Goetz says, "dealt with nutrition, they dealt with medication."

Last year, Debbie Compton told NewsChannel 5 that she watched her father-in-law whither away. Compton told us, "He's losing weight but no one ever did anything about it."

Charles Compton lost 50 pounds in a matter of months at the nursing home in Murfreesboro after he stopped eating, she told NewsChannel 5.

Commissioner Goetz says the facility now plans to hire a full-time dietician.

Goetz says that person will "make sure that in fact when someone is going through a weight loss incident that everything's being done to deal with that."

And the family of veteran Dave Lawson told NewsChannel 5 last year that they were appalled by his gaping bedsores that went untreated.

It turns out, the nursing home's doctor usually only visited the facility once a week.

"That's clearly not enough," Goetz says.

Goetz tells Kraus a full-time medical director will soon be hired as well.

In all, the state will spend more than $2 million to correct the problems at the nursing homes and another $1 million on new equipment and furniture.

And Goetz promises that, if needed, the state will spend more. He says, "We will find the funds necessary to fix these problems."

And it's likely the state will have to spend more. Commissioner Goetz says the $3 million that's been allocated is based on the federal inspectors' preliminary findings.

When the Department of Justice issues its final report, Goetz predicts, that total will go higher.

Some of the other ways they'll spend this initial $3 million: They are hiring a company to fill vacant positions and to train the staff they already have. They're also adding new positions like nurses and social workers.

Meanwhile, after state inspectors found critical violations at the Murfreesboro veterans home earlier this month, administrators were given 10 days to come up with a plan to fix those problems.

They have now turned that plan in.

But the home is still being fined $6,500 a day by the federal government.

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