ST. LOUIS – Residents, their families, and unrelated citizens of St. Louis submitted a packet of information to the St. Louis-based Missouri Veterans Home in July, alleging that the predominately African-American staff have been mistreating its residents.
Deputy Director of the Missouri Veterans Commission Brian Hunt believed that the complaints had “merit, but it is definitely my opinion that there was an agenda present to replace the administrator of the St. Louis Veterans Home because of race,” he said. “It is my opinion that at least some of the individuals involved had a racist agenda that they wanted to accomplish.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson and the Lt. Governor’s Office issued a statement revealing that they had been looking into to the complaints of the residents for several months. “My office has conducted numerous interviews with family members as well as current and formers staff members of the facility to document their experiences in the hope of enacting needed change,” Parson said. “As a veteran, I am personally offended by any allegation of mistreatment, and I am working with state agencies to ensure this is not happening at any veteran’s facility in Missouri.”
Parson added, “The recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office is a full investigation of allegations of mistreatment at the St. Louis Veterans Home by an independent agency.”
According to Hunt, many of the complaints were aimed at Rolando Carter, the first African-American lead administrator in the Veterans Commission. Carter has been with the home for just over a year before residents called for his removal. Hunt says that residents and family members told him that if Carter was replaced, “this would all go away.” Another recommendation was to replace the Director of Nursing, who is also African-American, with the previous director who is white.
Hunt also says that the written report of the residents, their family, and unrelated citizens of the St. Louis area, claimed of “employee lazing,” “paycheck only employees,” and that the predominately African-American staff “don’t have the proper attitude for the demanding jobs at the home. It’s just a means to an end to get their nails done, a new bleach job, or tattoo.”
At the same time, the staff is alleged to subject its residents to burning hot water, unavailable access to food, and higher than average use of antipsychotic medication.
Curtis Washington, an African-American resident of the Missouri Veterans Home, told KSDK 5, “I’d rather come home and die at home than be at the home because of the treatment I get there.” Kathy Guzdial, a white family member whose husband died at the home said of her husband, “He was so scared he never talked. He didn’t deserve another veteran coming up and clawing his face and breaking his face open to where it bled.”
Hunt said that such claims directly contradict an unannounced annual regulatory survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. According to him, the federal veterans care group found a “deficiency free survey that I feel validated our team’s earlier comprehensive investigation.”
In the meantime, the Missouri Veterans Commission had implemented several protocols which include increasing communication between the Veterans and the staff by implementing Grand Rounds by Administration, Director of Nursing Services, Social Workers, Charge Nurses, Therapy Staff and CNAs. The home will additionally be adding an evening shift manager and have access to a hotline to inform the staff of issues, concerns, or suggestions.
Additionally, periodic Family Council meetings will now take place monthly. The administrator has also given families his direct cell phone number to answer any family concerns and the staff will undergo increased training and education on patient care topics.
“The STL home isn’t perfect and we do not provide perfect care anywhere and we are always looking for ways to improve and get better,” Hunt said. “But for the most part, the STL home has good clinical outcomes and just received a deficiency-free survey from our regulatory authority.”
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer