The chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission has met and held town halls with the staff of its seven homes and headquarters in the aftermath of a report critical of leadership’s lack of planning and policy. According to the commission website, Chairman Tim Noonan reviewed the root cause and corrective actions from the report and received candid and constructive feedback. Noonan also said they discussed plans on how to move forward as an organization to provide the best care for veterans.
The volunteer members of the Missouri Veterans Commission last week heard in person (virtually) the details of a 53-page investigation into the handling of a COVID-19 outbreak in its long-term care facilities. The report by national law firm Armstrong Teasdale was ordered by Governor Mike Parson in October after a September spike in virus-related deaths at some of its veterans homes. At least 145 veterans have died in the homes since September.
In the December 11 video conference, Armstrong Teasdale’s principal investigators presented their recommendations, as outlined in their report.
“The key to those recommendations is that MVC focus on planning,” summarized attorney Ida Shafaie. “And make sure the staff is trained to a standard and they understand what needs to be done. We see this as very important, not just as MVC approaches COVID and how they handle the rest of this pandemic, but it’s important because none of us knows what the next pandemic going to look like and we don’t know what COVID’s going to look like in the future, so it’s important that MVC use the time and knowledge they have now to develop these protocols so that the next time an infectious disease, unfortunately, rears its ugly head MVC and their staff are prepared on what they need to do.”
Noonan was the only commissioner to speak at the video conference. Executive Director Col. Paul Kirchhoff did not speak.
Noonan said the report “is tough but it’s fair.”
“We’ve already started implementing a number of these recommendations,” he said. “We’ve started our COVID reset.”
United States Senator Josh Hawley, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, has called for changes at the commission since the report’s release.
Noonan responded, “Yes, we need change but more importantly we need transformation. We need to realize we need to take care of our front line in a new and different way.”
Noonan says every long-term care facility is facing a shortage of CNA’s and the commission must be competitive in pay. “We’ve got to think and be innovative about how we run our homes and realize that the competition is all around us for talent and for serving our veterans,” he said.
The commission gets revenue from various unrelated programs around the state, including riverboat casinos and the new state medical marijuana program. Noonan said, “”We also have to ensure that the monies that are due to the Veterans Commission, old sources and new sources, are put to their highest and best use.”
I’m hopeful that this wasn’t a dress rehearsal but we have to view it as one, because we have to assume we’re going to be hit like this again.” Noonan concluded.