Vets’ home in need of intervention

For nearly 40 years, the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home has been a source of great pride for Blair County.

It garners respect not only here, but from well beyond this county’s borders.

Some people might recall that during the home’s early days — it opened on June 30, 1977, with just five residents — the facility experienced “growing pains.” It didn’t take long for some of the early residents to admit that they were less than enthusiastic about living there.

But whatever unhappiness existed among the home’s “pioneer” residents dissipated as the home settled into its mission and the home’s population and services grew.

Good people always have worked there, and this county remains proud that it is the site of this valuable resource for men and women who served this nation honorably, with sincere devotion and patriotism.

To most people over the years, the home seemed to be the proverbial well-oiled machine. Even if problems evolved, they weren’t of any major scope that couldn’t be resolved internally, without outside attention.

That changed on March 9 with the news that the state had suspended 39 of the home’s employees for reasons then undisclosed.

Two days later, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced that a case of resident-on-resident sexual abuse in August, followed by staff violations of a federal patient-privacy law, were the basis for the suspensions.

However, it was disclosed that the problem was broader than the incident of abuse. The incident had exposed what was described as ineffective staff monitoring — an intolerable situation that Military and Veterans Affairs wanted to eradicate without delay.

The discovery of ineffective monitoring led to a state Health Department finding that “the facility failed to ensure that the residents’ environment remained free of hazards” and that some of the problem might have been attributable to inadequate employee training and follow-up guidance.

Those findings raised questions as to how ineffective monitoring had crept into the home’s operations, and how long substandard monitoring had existed before the sexual-abuse incident had occurred.

Both are excellent questions that need to be probed fully.

That situation is one in which area state lawmakers should be more than mildly interested.

Meanwhile, state officials should feel compelled to issue subsequent reports to the public, including about the length of the suspensions and whether any of those suspended chose to resign or were dismissed.

Families that might need the home’s service for one of their own, now or in the future, need to have their confidence in the home renewed.

The Mirror reported on March 11 that the home has put in place corrective measures emanating from the Health Department.

While there are people who might consider the current concerns an isolated problem, that doesn’t negate the fact that they never should have occurred.

If any problems remain beyond steps already taken, they need to be fixed — quickly.

Veterans living at the home deserve nothing less. And, such a reminder never again should be necessary.

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