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State audit criticizes pay, oversight at Oklahoma's veterans centers

BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm •  Published: April 17, 2013

The Claremore death last May, plus allegations of sexual abuse against an employee at the Ardmore center later in the year, were among several incidents discussed in a recent legislative study of the department, said Sen. Frank Simpson.

The Ardmore Republican said Wednesday's audit report reinforced many of his concerns.

“The employee who has the most impact on the quality of care is the lowest paid person in the center,” Simpson said. “We've got to look at a program where we get the pay more comparable to the expectations and responsibilities of the job.”

The department's budget was reduced by almost 10 percent from 2010 to 2012, and some nursing center employees are paid 41 percent less than their counterparts in other states, according to the report.

The report also cites inconsistent training, a disregard for staff input by administrators and a decentralized structure as fundamental problems in the department's operations.

Commission members “neither appear fully aware of their own governance responsibility or conscious of their own deficiencies,” according to the report.

The problems create an environment at the nursing centers that could lead to simple errors, like forgetting to change bedsheets, to more serious issues like failing to properly investigate abuse complaints, according to the report.