NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The Vermont Veterans Home Board of Trustees will meet in executive session next week to begin planning for the possibility the facility could lose funding from the federal government.
New trustees’ President Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. said the Sept. 26 meeting will be focus on "operating strategies." The trustees revealed last week that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will stop paying for the care of veterans at the home if several deficiencies identified during several surveys of the home are not corrected.
Among deficiencies identified were a failure by staff to report a change in medical condition to a doctor, failure to report abuse in a timely manner and improper dressing of a wound.
Another unannounced inspection will take place before Sept. 28. CMS intends to cut off funding 30 days after Sept. 28 if the deficiencies are not corrected.
CMS has already cut off funding to allow any new residents. But the $12 million in lost funding for existing residents would cause the home’s census to drop from about 155 to 50. It would also lead to cutbacks in staffing.
Next week’s meeting should help the trustees "to assess where we are in that point in time ... By that time we should know if we’ve got the funding or we don’t have the funding, and where to go," Krawczyk said. "Hopefully, we’ll know whether or not we met the required action."
Krawczyk said he has spent time in recent days with home Administrator Melissa Jackson to understand the steps being undertaken to meet the federal requirements.
"I’ve seen what they’ve done. I think they’ve touched all the bases, but we’re not the ones that make the call, they are," he said. "What we’re going to do is correct these deficiencies that were filed by the CMS team."
Still, Krawczyk said the board will begin to plan for all possible outcomes. "Either way we’ve got to have a strategy," he said.
The trustees are focused on addressing short-term problems to ensure federal funding is not cut. Then, the board will address long-term solutions to ensure that the requirements are met and funding is not again jeopardized, Krawczyk said.
"We’re not going to be satisfied," Krawczyk added. "We’re going to fix the problem. I just hope nobody out there thinks it’s going to be a short-term fix."
Making sure the more than 200 employees -- and more than $4 million in payroll -- are not reduced is a priority, Krawczyk said.
"They are our family, friends and neighbors that work there. Besides, everybody wants great care for our veterans," he said.
Veterans Home staff members were also set to meet Monday evening with residents and their families to discuss the situation.