JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Gov. Eric Greitens said Monday that he wants his five new appointees to the Missouri Veterans Commission to fire the leader of the embattled St. Louis Veterans Home after an independent investigation found substandard care at the home.
During a press conference outside the home that he livestreamed on Facebook, the Republican governor said now that he has the new appointees in place he is seeking to have them remove the home’s administrator, Rolando Carter, as well as the commission’s executive director, Larry Kay.
Some patients, their families and staff have complained for months about the care and environment at the home. Three prior reviews did not turn up any wrongdoing.
“When bureaucrats fail (and) when they hurt people, they need to be fired,” said Greitens, who announced Monday that the state’s other homes for veterans will be investigated as well, although he didn’t elaborate on whether any of them faced specific complaints. Those six homes are in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James and Warrensburg.
Carter and Kay did not immediately return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday. Carter previously told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that most of the complaints were “very minor in nature” and that steps have been taken to address concerns, including daily checkups on veterans by nurses and administrators and the addition of a guest service director.
Greitens called for an independent investigation of the St. Louis home last month after repeated complaints. According to an executive summary from its preliminary findings, Massachusetts nursing home consultant Harmony Healthcare International found that substandard care at the home “has caused, or is likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.”
The review found the home has outdated policies for giving out psychotropic drugs, failed to help keep veterans adequately hydrated, and has issues with patient hygiene. The report also cited high employee turnover and fear from workers that they will face retaliation if they report abuse or neglect.
Harmony Healthcare International recommended further investigation, more transparency on the part of the home and a change in leadership, among other reforms.
Greitens said he expects the Missouri Veterans Commission to meet this week, although there’s not yet been notice of an upcoming meeting.
Greitens was able to replace all five of former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s appointees to the board, who were serving expired terms. All of Greitens’ picks are veterans and several have ties to The Mission Continues, the veterans’ charity Greitens helped found.
Appointee Meredith Knopp, a former Army captain, is senior vice president of programs and operations at The Mission Continues. Tim Smith, who served as an Army sergeant and now owns Patriot Commercial Cleaning, was the first Mission Continues fellow. And a third Greitens appointee, Tim Noonan, is a former Marine captain who serves on The Mission Continues’ board of directors and donated $26,000 to Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign.
Greitens also appointed two veterans who work as surgeons at the Ferrell-Duncan Clinic at CoxHealth in Springfield: Drs. John Buckner and Jose Dominguez. Buckner and his wife donated more than $10,000 to Greitens’ campaign, and Dominguez and his wife gave close to $8,000.
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