Correction: A previous version of this article contained some errors. They have since been corrected. They were in regards to the presence of a sixth inspector and how long the overall inspection took.
BENNINGTON -- Leaders at the Vermont Veterans Home said they feel good about a recent inspection conducted Monday by the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living.
The home and the community it serves were put on edge last year when the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid threatened to cut payments because of several deficiencies found there. The Vermont Veterans Home receives the bulk of its $21 million budget from Medicare and Medicaid payments and faced closure if it could not measure up to standards. Workers at the home rallied and passed a number of key inspections.
Melissa Jackson, the facility's executive director, said five inspectors from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living's Division of Licensing and Protection arrived on Monday morning and were at the home until Wednesday. The five were there to conduct the home's annual inspection while a sixth was there to follow up on 12 matters self-reported by the home.
The state inspectors act on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
"I do believe the number of findings we were cited with is below average," Jackson said.
Every time a problem is found, inspectors call it a "finding," Jackson said. They notify the home of their findings while they are reviewed, a process which can take a couple weeks. In the meantime, the home draws up a corrective action plan for the finding, which inspectors may take no action on or they may classify it as a "deficiency."
If a deficiency is found, the home is required to make and enact an corrective action plan, she said.
The inspectors looked at 49 patient care files and found no problems with any of them, she said. Of the 12 self-reported incidents, 10 were found to be non-issues. Of the two that were marked as findings one involved the late reporting of an alleged case of veteran-on-veteran abuse. Jackson said no abuse was found to have occurred, but there was a problem with when it got reported to a nurse. The other matter involved an individual patient care plan and how it was followed. Jackson said privacy regulations do not allow her to speak in more detail on specific cases.
The sixth inspector made three findings, one involving a dirty kitchen fan, the other being too many wheelchairs in the hallways thereby possibly creating a fire hazard, and expired or unused medication being kept too long.
Jackson said when a patient leaves the home or passes away they often leave behind medication. It gets stored in a special bin away from active medication and is labeled as being inactive. She said the home keeps it so it can be reimbursed and eventually it is disposed of but there appears to be no written regulation on when it needs to go. She said she has asked inspectors for clarification on this matter.
"There's nothing they could produce to show us, is it 10 days, 30 days, a year, whatever it is," said Joseph Krawczyk Jr., president of the home's Board of Trustees.
Krawczyk said the inspection went well and the staff at the home has performed well under pressure. "The staff never lost sight of what the mission was," he said. "The mission was to take care of veterans."
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.