Abuse, intimidation alleged at Oklahoma veterans centers
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2012
10/11/12 at 7:51 AM
Current and former residents and employees of veterans centers in Oklahoma testified this week in Oklahoma City of multiple instances of patient abuse and a culture of intimidation that kept word of the problems from getting out.
One woman testified that she thought her husband was chemically restrained and abused by employees, said Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, who is leading the legislative review of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
The agency has come under scrutiny after the death of Jay Minter, 85, at the Claremore center. He was scalded in a whirlpool and died hours later from complications of thermal injuries, according to a report from the state Medical Examiner's Office. An investigation substantiated claims of caretaker neglect and abuse.
Tuesday's meeting was the third in the legislative review. The final meeting is set for Oct. 23 and will focus on possible solutions.
A resident of the Norman center said staff members were rough with residents and that family members weren't told about important medical events of residents. He also testified about poor communication during shift changes, Simpson said.
Another woman said her husband's genitals became infected because he wasn't being bathed often enough. She removed him from the Claremore center after witnessing abuse of other residents, including the pouring of ice water on Alz- heimer's patients, Simpson said.
Two current employees of the Claremore center also spoke at the hearing, saying there were not enough staff members and that employees were often forced to take shortcuts. They said they got the impression that complaining about the problems could lead to their losing their jobs, Simpson said.
"Their (the clinics') goal was not to identify problems but to just circle the wagons and keep any information from getting out - especially bad information," he said.
The next meeting of the legislative review will include a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who conducts investigations at the centers and the state's long-term care ombudsman.
It will also feature an employee of the state Health Department who could discuss the possibility of bringing the centers back under the department's inspection, as they were until 2003.
Simpson said the Legislature is not blameless in the situation.
"I'm here to say we're, in essence, part of the problem, and I want to find a solution to it," he said.
Original Print Headline: Veteran abuse, intimidation alleged
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Sen. Frank Simpson: The lawmaker says the Legislature is not free of blame for the problems alleged at the state Department of Veterans Affairs