New documents obtained by the WZZM 13 Watchdog team show six companies are interested in bidding on the contract for nursing services at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
Notably absent from that list is the current contractor, J2S, a company that's been under fire for months for not staffing the facility by state guidelines. J2S has done the work since 2013.
Currently, the state is calling for bids from contractors to take care of our veterans.
J2S representatives are not listed on the sign-up sheets for a mandatory site visit earlier this month which may indicate that leaders at that company perhaps no longer want the contract. Representatives from the following companies attended the mandatory session as part of the state's contracting program: Vibrus Group, Maxim Healthcare, QCI Healthcare, Arcadia Heath Services, Career Staff Unlimited and Care One Inc.
State leaders and company leaders wouldn't confirm J2S's intentions to leave as early as September.
Last year, we reported the state of Michigan filed three vendor complaints against J2S for not staffing the facility properly. We reported that workers were often being asked to do double shifts to make sure staffing levels were correct.
A state Auditor General investigation found the company was short 81 percent of the time, which confirmed the results of an earlier 13 Watchdog investigation.
Sources tell us in recent weeks the staffing issues at the Home for Veterans have not gotten any better. In one case, we are told there weren't enough workers to feed the veterans breakfast, angering those who feel change is needed.
Last month, we reported 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, or 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 said.
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.