Local veterans in need of nursing home care have fewer options than they did less than a year ago.
A spokesman for the Veterans Administration said the government is still trying to provide more options, despite the current situation. Only one nursing home – The Palms Rehabilitation and Nursing – is accepting patients from the VA.
Last year The Palms was the subject of a KRIS 6 investigation, which showed some nursing homes under contract with the VA had a history of neglect, and they were among the worst-rated in the city. In that story, Deborah Laughlin explained the neglectful care her late father – veteran William Mitchell – received during the final days of his life.
At the time – The Palms was one of two facilities in Corpus Christi and three in the area for nursing home care through the VA. Since then, Hurricane Harvey destroyed the facility in Rockport and the VA’s contract with Retama Manor on Morgan Avenue is on hold until the problems the VA discovered there are corrected, said Reynaldo Leal Jr., VA Public Affairs Officer
For now, The Palms is the only choice.
"It’s sad to hear that after this time that nothing has changed,” Laughlin said. “It’s the same way – nothing."
The VA is still working to change that, Leal said.
“It may feel like we have less options right now, but our folks have been working very hard to make sure that if that’s the case now, it’s not the case tomorrow,” Leal said.
When the VA re-opened its contract process last summer, four nursing homes in Corpus Christi applied, but none of them met the VA’s minimum standards.
That’s because some had poor quality ratings with Medicare. The VA requires at least a three-star rating, out of the five-star system. Also, pay was an issue, Leal said.
It’s a requirement for companies under a federal contract to pay at least $10.20 an hour. That’s almost three dollars more than the hourly minimum wage standard of $7.25. Some of those nursing homes that applied in Corpus Christi weren’t willing to pay more, Leal said.
The standards won’t change, but the VA is taking a different approach.
“Our staff has actively hit the streets and gone and spoke to directors and staff and reminded them hey there is a solicitation out there,” Leal said.
Earlier this week, it appeared that work might pay off. A nursing home in Corpus Christi agreed to apply.
“We’re hoping to add another one here very very soon, Leal said.
The problems attracting more nursing home options are isolated to Corpus Christi.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the VA just went through the same process and added three new nursing homes for veterans there.