JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KFVS) - An independent report into Missouri’s veterans homes suggested the facilities were unprepared for a fall surge of COVID-19.
The report, released on Wednesday, December 2, said 103 veterans at the seven Missouri homes have died due the virus, as of Nov. 13. That included 29 residents at the home in Cape Girardeau.
The St. Louis law firm hired to do the investigation said there were lapses by the commission and staff that contributed to the spread of the virus. They included a failure to recognize the virus as a problem, creating a response plan and responding to the outbreak.
Governor Mike Parson instructed Missouri Veterans Commission Chairman Timothy Noonan to conduct the review due to reports of active COVID-19 cases in the veterans homes.
Armstrong Teasdale, a national law firm located in St. Louis, was used for the external review. Attorneys interviewed 174 people in less than 35 days, implemented a hotline for veterans’ families to voice concerns, analyzed more than 900 documents and directed Pathway Health to conduct an on-site audit of all seven long-term care facilities.
The completed report includes an in-depth analysis on the cause of the outbreak and recommended ways to fix it. The report was presented to the chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission on November 16.
“We are dedicated to serving our veterans, especially during these difficult times,” said Chairman Noonan. “As part of the review process, the MVC received early recommendations that enabled immediate action to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The additional information learned from the investigation was insightful and will drive the reforms to be implemented by the MVC. The dedication of the Armstrong Teasdale team, which included veterans, former medical and clinical professionals and prosecutors, was unmatched. Their recommendations provide us a roadmap that will challenge the MVC and other stakeholders to address the current pandemic and implement necessary reforms.”
The following are some of the corrective actions:
- Expand use of data analytics
- Streamline reporting
- Examine structure of MVC
- Implement outbreak plan
- Implement COVID-19 reset
- Implement Essential Caregiver plan
- Implement inside visit plan
- Improve communication with families
Governor Mike Parson was asked about the report’s findings in Thursday’s briefing.
“I’m a little limited to what I can say because I am not sure what all the outcome of this is going to be, so I will try and be as careful as I can,” Governor Parson said. “I will go back to when the numbers started rising. It became a red flag for us here at the governor’s office and at the state level, and that’s why we had this investigation done. I think there are some things in that report that are going to have to be addressed and going to have to be explained.”
It should be noted the investigation found the Missouri Veterans Commission Headquarters and facility staff “genuinely care for the veterans” and are working hard to keep them safe.
The Missouri Veterans Commission, a division of the Department of Public Safety, operates seven state veterans homes, five state veterans cemeteries and the Veterans Services Program.