The 13 Watchdog team is taking a look at new allegations of staffing shortages at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. We are also investigating why nursing assistants can now work at the facility without passing a certification test.
We have investigated staffing issues at the Home for Veterans since October. The company responsible for staffing the facility with nurse aides, J2S, has admitted in the past it isn't meeting contractual minimum standards when it comes to staffing the facility.
New documents we obtained show the Home for Veterans made a new agreement with J2S giving the company more flexibility to bring new people in. The document shows GRHV will accept CENA (Competency-Evaluated Nursing Assistants) applicants who have successfully completed their CENA training but have not yet completed their certification under federal guidelines.
The applicants, according to the documents, have four months to get their certification or they must leave the GRHV.
AFSCME Local 261 President Mark Williams has concerns about that policy move because, in the past, he says workers had to pass their test before working with the veterans.
"If you're not certified, how do we know (the employee) is capable of performing the work?" Williams asked.
Former J2S employee Amanda McCallum says she believes it could be dangerous to put an untrained worker in the facility, potentially lifting patients and feeding people who can't feed themselves.
"I don't think it's a very good idea to have people who have not taken that test and not proven they have significant knowledge," McCallum said.
Leaders at the GRHV indicated to us that a four-month trial period for nursing assistants is standard among long-term care facilities statewide.
The state's new agreement with J2S allows the company to pay new CENA's $11.25 an hour to try to entice people to come work at the facility.
Williams, though, says it's been difficult to get people to come in on-time. He says the staffing issues are happening again inside the facility despite promises from leaders to get people to work at the facility. He points to Tuesday's breakfast service as an example.
"They were desperately short," Williams said.
Williams says on the 3 North nursing unit, one caregiver showed up in the morning on-time for work, not enough to be able to feed the members, he says, in a timely manner.
We reviewed documentation that leaders inside the GRHV were looking into the breakfast situation.
The company that's been under fire for under staffing the facility, J2S, didn't return a phone call for comment.