FAYETTEVILLE — The state should consider moving the Fayetteville Veterans Home to a new location, among other changes, given the facilities history of poor patient care in an unsuitable building, Republican gubernatorial candidate Curtis Coleman said Tuesday.
"The failures at the home are systemic and an indicator of failure at the very highest level," Coleman said at a news conference, calling for a "thorough and transparent" legislative investigation into the operations and management of the facility.
The deputy director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs said major renovations are being planned for the facility, which is housed in a renovated portion of what used to be Washington Regional Medical Center in downtown Fayetteville.
"I’m in complete agreement with him that the facility is not as nice as it could be and still has the feeling of being in a hospital," Veterans Affairs Deputy Director Charles Johnson said in telephone interview.
The home has been cited this year for care issues that include the death of a resident in a negligence case and a patient sustaining a broken arm in an incident which, investigators found, workers gave false statements of what happened.
At last count, 73 veterans live at the home.
Coleman cited news reports that the facility as among the most profitable nursing home Arkansas, and he criticized the state for not doing a better job of care and maintenance.
"Why is a nursing home run by the state not putting 100 percent of what it makes into taking care of our veterans?"
The home’s receipts exceeded expenses last year by more than $600,000 he said, yet the home is subject to a class-action lawsuit by workers and former workers over unpaid overtime and for not allowing time off.
Coleman is one of three announced Republican candidates for governor in 2014. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson and state Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, also have announced for the GOP nomination. Hutchinson’s campaign declined to respond to Coleman’s comments. Telephone and e-mail messages to Hobbs’ campaign were not returned Tuesday.
The only declared Democrat in the race is former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross. Gov. Mike Beebe is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election to a third term.
The difficulty of evacuating the home in the event of fire or severe weather is also a concern, Coleman said.
The Veterans Affairs Department leases space for the home from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The department, Johnson said, is in negotiations with UAMS to lease more space and make renovations.