VETERAN DENIED DIGNITY AND RESPECT
DECEMBER 29, 2014 LEAVE A COMMENT EDIT
Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center has exposed its hypocrisy toward the principles that a veteran served to protect. Dignity and respect are the foundations of trust and credibility. The state run Veterans Care Center has failed to embrace these principles.
After back surgery and therapy at McGuire Veterans Medical Center, I was admitted to Sitter and Barfoot on Friday afternoon, December 9th, 2011—unable to walk or stand. I was transferred under the pretense that it was for “therapy.”
Ten days later, the Director of Social Services, Dana Rivera, gave me a document informing me, “We have reviewed your case and decided that Medicare coverage of your current services should end.” Sitter and Barfoot had made this decision after five days therapy and observation.
The Director of Social Services told me, “You will spend the rest of your life here.”
This unsigned paper ended my Medicare Coverage. The change made it necessary for me to liquidate all my assets and to convert my medical coverage to Medicaid. The appeals process was the only option offered. All my petitions were denied without explanation.
Half-truths and memory lapses confuse the circumstances around the change from Medicare to Medicaid. How could Sitter and Barfoot come to the conclusion that services should end without the input of a medical professional—in only five days of observation and therapy? Repeated inquiries have resulted in different responses.
I pressed Ms. Rivera to name the person who had given her the document. The director replied, “Diane Handler.” I had never heard the name.
I learned that she was a therapist in the rehab department. Finding her office, I asked her, “Who wrote this?” She said she had, and I asked her to sign it.
I received a contradictory email on January 19, 2012.The Director of Rehabilitation, David Mansolino, stated that he, in concert with his Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Charles Evans, had made the decision.
It remains unclear why Diane Handler signed a document she hadn’t authored.
On January 17, 2013, Robyn Jennings, Director of Nursing, told me that she had conversations with Mr. Mansolino. Mr. Mansolino told her that he conferred with therapists, and physicians at McGuire VA Medical Center, yet he cannot remember any names.
After several emails, Ms. Jennings confirmed my suspicion—David Mansolino couldn’t remember with whom he may have spoken.
A judgment he made that had a devastating effect on my life. Stripping from me a lifetime of accomplishment.
David Mansolino has also shown careless record keeping by losing an email I sent him on April 30th, 2012. The email was a request to determine whether I needed approval from his rehab department to make transfers. An OK that would allow me to make slide board transfers from wheelchair to bed and back, without supervision.
He never responded. When confronted with his mistake, in front of the administrator, Sandra Ranicki, he maintained that he couldn’t find the email. Perhaps he’d given it to his Assistant, Charles Evans—once again, a memory lapse.
Since my arrival at Sitter and Barfoot I’ve repeatedly asked for the go-ahead to use an external catheter. The device would allow me to return to community activities with comfort, confidence, and dignity. Sitter and Barfoot had blocked all attempts to provide me with the device despite the recommendations from three medical doctors at McGuire VA Medical Center.
I received excuses when I made requests. “They weren’t intended to be used in a long term nursing facility.” Or, “You run the risk of UTIs [urinary tract infections] and skin breakdown.” Finally, it was just, “against policy.”
The attending physician, Doctor Philip Boulanger, finally gave consent to use a catheter for up to eight hours. However, my community activities would have exceeded the eight-hour restriction.
On February 12th, 2012, I sent an email to the administrator requesting information on the policy. The email was ignored.
In desperation, I contacted the ombudsman to see if I could gather additional support to reenter the community with comfort and dignity.
I requested a meeting with Sandra Ranicki, administrator from Sitter and Barfoot; Robyn Jennings, the Director of Nursing; Debbie Kopacki, the ombudsman from Senior Connections, and myself. The meeting was scheduled for February 24th, 2012.
Ms. Kopacki was aware of my personal needs and expectations; to regain an activity level close to what I’d had experienced before—to return to the community, and to be productive.
As expected, Ms. Ranicki and Ms. Jennings voiced their resistance to the external catheter, mentioning their experiences, concluding that it was against Sitter and Barfoot’s policy.
I expressed my reasons for the device—I had volunteered for the Wheelchair Games to be a greeter at the Civic Center, and I couldn’t attend without one.
I then looked to Ms. Kopacki for support. To my surprise, she related conditions from her previous nursing duties and sided with the administrator and the director of nursing. My supporter was echoing the same denials that I had already heard.
I was furious.
I continued to pursue the policy source. I was told that it was the policy of the Medical Director and the attending physician. They both denied responsibility.
The policy seems to be the making of everyone’s imagination. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted an interview on 07/11/2012. A Central Supply Staff member (Other F) is quoted as saying they, “used to have two residents several months ago that used them [external catheters], but there are currently no residents who utilize them.”
I have never received nor has anyone been able to produce a policy. Ms. Jennings justified my skepticism in a meeting 1/17/2013. She couldn’t provide a written copy from the manual saying, “It must be in storage.”
Ms. Ranicki expressed her insensitivity towards resident’s dignity and respect. In 2012, my personal mail was opened twice; two different checks diverted and deposited into the wrong account without my knowledge. Ms. Ranicki’s defensive stance was that Sitter and Barfoot was doing it as a “convenience.”
Opening personal mail has been—and continues to be—the practice at Sitter and Barfoot since my arrival. On the survey done July 17, 2013, “Employee-B stated that she sorts the mail that comes into the facility. Employee-B stated that mail that is addressed to residents goes to the resident except for mail that has anything to do with money then it goes to the business office.”
Ms. Ranicki’s callousness towards me was revealed in her response to the Department of Health surveyor on July 18th, 2013. When the administrator was questioned about the unannounced searching of my personal space, she is quoted as saying: “she did not perceive that what the CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] did was a violation of Resident #5′ s [sic] privacy.”
These are examples of deception, distortion, and controlling character at Sitter and Barfoot; all at the expense of one veteran that has served his country. My experience, I fear, is “the tip of the iceberg.” I’m just one resident of a possible 160.
Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center has shown that it is incapable of self-governing.
There is no operational oversight from the Department of Veterans Services. Sitter and Barfoot operates unsupervised and with impunity—held accountable only to the Department of Health once a year and an annual survey done by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both inspections are superficial exercises to meet administrative requirements.
Ask most any long-term resident if they’re happy, most will say “yes.” Why? Residents are intimidated and are afraid—afraid knowing that Sitter and Barfoot is the last stop.
Most family members don’t know what to look for, don’t have the time to ask, or just don’t care. Family members take for granted their loved one is getting proper care.
The Veterans Care Center, for many, is the last sanctuary for veterans just waiting to die—just waiting to fade away and be forgotten.
Sitter and Barfoot is just another nursing home; no better, no worse.
Absent is the direction, leadership, and moral code to set Sitter and Barfoot apart; it has neither the desire nor the incentive to excel. Just maintain the status quo and cover its tracks on the backs of heroes.
Sadly, the Director of Social Services may have been right—I may spend the rest of my life here. However, I’m not giving up my dignity, and I’m not giving up my deserved respect.