MLG’s DOH let veterans home keep ‘four disabled veterans to a room’ during pandemic

In a new “scathing” report from the Legislative Finance Committee (FLC), scandal-ridden Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Department of Health “failed to ensure proper infection control” at the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe) told them “[t]he facility, she said, houses four disabled veterans to a room.” The facility had 28 people die from COVID-19. 

But Lujan Grisham’s cabinet secretary for Human Services (and now the Department of Health) Dr. David Scrase defended the department.

“He told lawmakers that even the most well-funded private nursing homes in New Mexico faced difficulty limiting the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. The veterans home, Scrase said, was particularly challenging, given the layout of the building, with four people to a room,” reports the Journal.

“What happened at the veterans home,” he said, “is about the same as what happened throughout the entire state and, in my opinion, based on design issues, could have been much worse.”

But state analysts don’t agree with Scrace’s attempt to downplay responsibility. The 28 deaths at the facility equaled 19% of the facility’s 145-bed capacity, a percentage higher than the state average, according to an LFC analyst. 

The 28 deaths at the veterans home – which occurred over several months late last year – equaled 19% of the facility’s 145-bed capacity, according to the LFC report. The percentage was higher than the state average, one analyst told lawmakers. The LFC report says the veterans home’s coronavirus deaths ​​“were exacerbated by inadequate oversight,” with other practices such as staffers not changing personal protective equipment between visiting patients, among other issues. 

State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) who chairs the LFC, urged the Lujan Grisham administration to use federal stimulus funds to build a new Truth or Consequences facility for these veterans. 

“With this high-risk population, we need to do something, and we need to do it sooner than later,” said Lundstrom. 

In December, Lujan Grisham announced New Mexico hospitals were on the brink of “rationing care” while last April, Lujan Grisham’s administration evicted scores of nursing home patients, some even in their 90s and one aged 102. 

Following the news, Republican Governor’s Association spokesman Will Reinert said, “Instead of working to take care the disabled men and women who fought to keep our country free as COVID-19 ravaged their living quarters, Governor Lujan Grisham dined on taxpayer-funded wagyu beef.” He added, “If Grisham won’t even work to protect New Mexico’s veterans, don’t expect her to fight for families struggling to put food on the table or to clean up Albuquerque’s crime-ridden streets.”

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