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Barstow Veterans Home Passes Resurvey.

Business Editors/Health and Medical Writers

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BW HealthWire)--Feb. 29, 2000

Tomas Alvarado, secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, today announced that the Veterans Home of California (VHC)-Barstow passed the resurvey conducted by the state Department of Health Services (DHS).

"I am extremely gratified that all of our hard work has produced this outcome. I am also confident that, as a result, there has been an overall improvement in the care veterans receive at the Barstow home," said Secretary Alvarado.

"I personally know of the quality of care offered at the veterans home in Barstow. That's where I spent most of January and February, working with the dedicated Barstow staff to ensure the veterans home passed the DHS resurvey."

Alvarado's number one concern has been and will continue to be the health and safety of the veterans.

After DHS conducted a survey of the Barstow home and found areas requiring improvement, Alvarado implemented an action plan to correct the deficiencies. Alvarado took charge personally in Barstow, leading a team that included staff in Barstow and from Sacramento, Yountville and Chula Vista as they worked with DHS to pass the resurvey.

The secretary appreciated the assistance of DHS and praised both departments for their commitment to resolve outstanding concerns.

"I am especially proud of the dedication, hard work and long hours put forth by everyone who helped achieve this success."

"This success story demonstrates Gov. Gray Davis' commitment to the veterans of California. Together we are committed to providing and ensuring the best possible care at all our veterans homes," said Alvarado.

As the Legislature considers Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget for fiscal year 2000-01, Alvarado today spotlighted the proposals, important to state veterans home residents.

"I have a plan I call aging with dignity," said Governor Davis, "and I'm a big believer in honoring the generations that preceded us. I don't give a speech without reminding people how fortunate we are to be living in America in the year 2000. People fought wars, including World War II. They came back and they built roads and they built hospitals and they created opportunities. They didn't really get a chance to take advantage of it. We're reaping the benefits. So we have to find some way of giving back. Well, as that generation that basically sacrificed and led us to our great good fortune ages, we have a particular obligation to them." (a)

Governor Davis' budget proposes improvements to the Barstow and Yountville campuses to ensure that resident veterans receive top-notch nursing and medical care and that each resident's quality of life is enhanced by plentiful recreational and rehabilitative activities.

Alvarado praised the governor's budget proposals which address six critical areas: Recruitment and retention of patient care staff, additional medical and related staff, program supplements and expansions, infrastructure improvements, capital outlay and quality assurance and staff training.

(a) California Channel interview with Bill Rosendahl, Jan. 6, 2000

Further details regarding the governor's proposals and additional comments from Governor Davis, Alvarado and other stakeholders follow:

Recruitment and retention of patient care staff

Governor Davis: "Under our program for aging with dignity, we'll raise the salaries of people in veterans homes. If you have to go into a veterans home, we want to make it a place where you can live out your remaining years in dignity, not just a place where you go just to die."

Details: The budget includes $4.5 million to provide recruitment and retention incentives for specified patient care staff positions. Registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), supervising RNs, pharmacists, physical therapists and psychiatric social workers will receive an $800 a month bonus if they work at VHC-Yountville and $1,000 a month if they work at VHC-Barstow. RNs, LVNs, certified nurse assistants, pharmacists and psychiatric social workers at both rank and file and supervisory levels in Barstow will receive one-time down payment assistance grants to help purchase a home. The grants will have a prorated payback to the state if the employee leaves home employment prior to a fixed period of time. The amount and length of time will be negotiated through collective bargaining by the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA). The governor's proposed budget includes $681,500 for this purpose. The governor's proposed budget contains $187,000 to assist recent nursing graduates with paying back student loans if they become employed at either veterans home. DPA will negotiate specifics of the program through the collective bargaining process.

Registered nurse Jeanie Halliday, certified case manager, nurse evaluator, utilization review coordinator and transfer coordinator, VHC-Barstow: "I think that has been long in coming and much needed and will be very much appreciated and very beneficial to get us to recruit more nurses with higher quality skills and experience. On the home loan, I think that's also a very valuable benefit. I wish that had been available when I first moved to Barstow and I think it will be a very valuable incentive to promote quality staffing. We're all very excited about the new budget proposals and I think, as nurses, we all sincerely care about the care that our residents will receive and also the improved care that they'll receive from these benefits and these proposals."

Additional medical and related staff

Details: The budget includes $3.3 million to provide additional medical and related staff, including nurse practitioners, dentists and physicians, as well as support staff for sanitation and evening maintenance functions. The governor's proposed budget includes three nurse practitioners for each home, 19 new janitorial positions for the home at Yountville and additional physician positions to replace the contracted medical officer of the day and on-call functions at each home. Dental services will be brought on-site in Barstow. The proposed budget includes one maintenance mechanic and one building maintenance worker for evening shift work in Barstow.

Resident Charlie Perkins, chair, Allied Council, VHC-Barstow: "Those are things that we desperately need. We have a contract dentist, but his contract is up. We need an on-site dentist. We really need that."

Program supplements and expansions

Details: The budget proposes $685,000 for additional therapeutic and recreational activity staff, a pilot program for Barstow home residents with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an on-site clinical laboratory to enhance Barstow home services. Two activity coordinators are proposed to expand activities into the evenings and on weekends in Barstow. An on-site clinical laboratory in Barstow, including three laboratory technicians, will reduce time delays in obtaining laboratory test results. One position to be established in Barstow is proposed to implement a model PTSD therapy program and recommend findings for further analysis.

Barstow Mayor Katy Yslas-Yent: "We are simply delighted with the governor's proposals. They are absolutely on target, addressing all the needs that have been identified. We expect these changes to make our veterans home a model of state-of the-art care and services on the national level."

Infrastructure improvements

Details: The budget also includes $3.8 million for environmental and facility improvements in the veterans homes. Special repairs are proposed for the Yountville home cemetery and chapel. The budget will fund installation of automatic faucets at the Barstow home. The governor's budget proposes to purchase safety needles and lifting devices to prevent injuries to patients and staff. The governor's proposed budget includes 21 positions in Yountville to improve maintenance functions. The positions include painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, stationary engineers, building maintenance workers, groundskeepers and a draftsman.

Resident Larry Lattman, member-helper, Public Affairs Office, VHC-Yountville: "After 16 years of neglect, we finally got a governor who know what's happening down here. We sadly need the repairs to these areas and what the governor is doing is like a breath of fresh air to this home. This home is 118 years old and the infrastructure has been sadly neglected. The governor has once again proven that he's done his homework and is taking the right course of action."

Capital outlay

Details: The budget proposes $9.2 million for capital outlay needs in the Barstow and Yountville homes. The proposals for the Barstow home include funding to convert an existing building into a residential care facility for the elderly to provide a secured "wandering" area for dementia patients and to install a cement foundation for trailers that will house recreational and rehabilitation programs. The Yountville home proposals include funding for the construction phase of the Holderman Rehabilitation Activity Area remodel, the construction phase to correct Jefferson Hall deficiencies, a remodel of the laundry building and new projects to enhance the quality of life and meet needs for improved accessibility, emergency water supply and storage and increased fire and life safety.

Resident Bill Jackson, commander, Barstow Post No. 855, The American Legion, Department of California, and chair, Food Committee, VHC-Barstow: "We're extremely pleased that the governor and the legislature are giving us the money to finish what we already started. We know what the vets need. They're not hiding in the back room. They're in the public eye. This would enhance the whole thing, our whole contribution to the community, the state and the nation. We're deeply appreciative."

Quality assurance and staff training

Secretary Alvarado: "We are redoubling our efforts on quality of care and addressing problems, but it requires the help of everyone. At this point, I am encouraging the staff and residents to take ownership of their homes and to create greater efficiency on campus. We want to work as a team."

Details: The budget proposes $886,000 for a program-wide quality assurance team, a nursing-specific quality assurance function at the Barstow home, a nursing staff training and coordination program and information services for medical staff. A quality assurance (QA) management team, reporting to the deputy secretary, veterans homes, will provide policy oversight to the QA home functions. Two positions are included in the governor's proposed budget. A QA RN (hired at the supervisory level), health and safety officer, licensed vocational nurse and office assistant are proposed for addition to the Barstow facility. The proposed budget includes two Meditech training positions to assist all home staff with learning the Veteran Home Information System (VHIS). Additionally, one information specialist position is proposed to be on-site in Barstow. A core team of four additional positions is proposed for Barstow to conduct training. The team includes a nurse trainer, nurse coordinator, training coordinator and office assistant. This team will provide training primarily to the nursing staff and throughout the home to all personnel who interact with the veterans and the public. The governor's budget proposes an Internet physician reference link to assist in diagnosis and evaluation. The electronic medical reference will bring more timely and accurate information to physicians and nursing staff.

Dr. Mohan Mallam, M.D., acting medical director, VHC-Barstow: "The governor's budget proposal looks very good, especially the hiring of a new, separate quality assurance coordinator. This person will be an excellent addition to the continuous quality improvement team. The coordinator will also be an excellent tool to improve the quality of care for the residents of the home."

Secretary Alvarado: "Governor Davis and I intend to provide our veterans with first-rate health care. Coming on the heels of the governor's actions, I have instructed each veterans home administrator to assign two staff members the responsibility to develop Department of Health Services (DHS) survey expertise. These staff members will continuously monitor the homes as well as participate in our own unannounced quality control visits at other homes. Furthermore, I am establishing a new position within the department for a statewide quality control officer for the homes. This individual will monitor equipment, infrastructure, personnel and residents' care at all campuses of the Veterans Home of California. I am very proud of the homes, both Barstow and Yountville, and the public is most welcome to visit our beautiful facilities. I know that many caring and dedicated staff work hard to create a supportive environment for aged and disabled veterans. The care and treatment of veterans at the Barstow and Yountville campuses is first and foremost."

Note to Editors: This release and previous CDVA news releases are available via e-mail (steve.dakota@cdva.ca.gov) or via fax by News on Demand at 800/356-8440.
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