Officials from the state-run nursing home for veterans defended the beleaguered facility during a House committee hearing Wednesday, disputing findings of a recent health inspection and offering an accounting of how state money has been spent.
Rep. John Nelson, R-Phoenix, called a special meeting of his House Counties, Municipalities and Military Affairs Committee to hear details of a recent investigation that found the Arizona State Veteran Home had violated 10 state and federal licensing standards.
Inspectors were following up on their finding in May that residents were in immediate jeopardy after a diabetic recovering from a brain injury was discharged without medication or home health services.
"The issue with the veteran who was sent home - we blew it," said Richard "Gregg" Maxon, the outgoing director of the Department of Veterans Services, which oversees the home.
"I'm not going to stand here and sugarcoat it," he said. "It's a black eye we're just going to have to live with."
But Maxon said the nursing home for military veterans is a much better place than it was a year ago, the last time state inspectors deemed residents in immediate jeopardy.
An inspection last fall found widespread problems with pressure sores and fall prevention - two key areas for nursing homes. But a survey in March showed improvement. An incident in which a paraplegic sheared off his toes in his electric wheelchair drew most of the 24 citations in that report.
"I don't know that the home should be judged on those two incidents," Maxon said. "I do think the veterans home is a good place to be."
Sylvia Balistreri, program manager for long-term care licensing with the state Department of Health Services, detailed the problems found in the latest inspection, which included ignoring resident complaints and preventing residents from leaving the grounds unescorted.
Though Nelson indicated he had turned up additional problems not found by Balistreri's inspectors, he didn't make those clear Wednesday or indicate what action, if any, he expected the committee to take.