Illinois Veterans’ Home Chicago has 24 residents living there as it waits for federal certification to fill more beds; nurses picket for more staffing at facility
by BRIAN NADIG
The first residents began moving into the Illinois Veterans’ Home Chicago at 4250 N. Oak Park Ave. in January, more than a dozen years after plans for the facility were announced, but only 24 of the 200 beds are occupied as the facility awaits federal certification.
In addition, the Illinois Nurses Association claims the facility has inadequate staffing for the 24 residents, with only one nurse on duty at times during the day shift and that some families have removed their relative out of the home due to staffing issues.
Association members and others picketed outside the veterans home on Tuesday morning, Sept. 13, and said that the nearby Chicago-Read Mental Health Center, 4200 N. Oak Park Ave., also needed more nurses.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is working with other agencies in an effort to recruit nurses during a time it described as nationwide staffing challenges for the health care industry. Staffing issues are commonplace these days at many nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, including emergency rooms, where patients sometimes have to wait for hours, according to published reports.
“This morning I stood with nurses and allies from our new Chicago Veterans home in Dunning to hear directly about the heavy burden they carry as they care for our aging veterans who need focused care and compassion,” state Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) said.
“As the new home scales up to a full capacity of 200 residents, we must fully support our healthcare workers by ensuring safe workplaces, including safe staffing ratios, and creating easier pathways to state employment. Today, we have none of these things.”
The department hopes to complete the certification process by the end of the 2022.
Once the certification process is completed, more residents can be admitted, but there is no projected timeline for when the facility could be operating at capacity, according to the department.
IDVA public information officer Maureen Hartigan issued the following statement:
“The Veterans’ Home at Chicago currently has 24 residents in its care, a limited census while it awaits final USDVA (U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs) certification, which is nearing completion.
“IDVA currently holds a license from IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health), the first step of the USDVA certification process, which allow the home to demonstrate that it is operational with at least 20 residents.
“We continue to hire and train staff for the home as we prepare to welcome additional residents. As always, we ensure that residents are admitted safely based on the needs of the veteran and staffing. The process will continue to be methodical.”
The project has faced numerous delays over the years.
Construction of the home was underway in 2015 when then-governor Bruce Rauner refused to release the funds needed for the work to continue. At the time there was a budget stalemate between the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature.
After the budget impasse ended, a structural design error in the building’s foundation was discovered in 2017, leading to more delays. And then the pandemic created additional challenges in terms of staffing the facility and obtaining supplies and other materials, according to the department.
Hartigan said that the veterans department has been working with the state Department of Central Management Services and the Governor’s Office to address staffing issues.
Governor J.B. Pritzker has authorized CMS to develop “on an emergency basis” a statewide recruiting campaign to attract staff members for state mental health centers, facilities for persons with developmental disabilities, veterans’ homes and prisons. More information is available at illinois.jobs2web.com.
The American Legion Billy Caldwell Post 806 recently announced that it is donating new bathrobes and other clothing items to the home’s residents through the American Legion’s “Gifts to the Yanks” program.
As a skilled nursing facility, the home provides care to those who may need assistance with a variety of daily activities, such as getting dressed, bathing or medication/prescription monitoring. Services for patients with dementia also are available.
To be eligible, an applicant must have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces and have served during a war or have a service-connected disability or injury, with additional criteria for peacetime veterans.
Admission also is based on the ability of the home to provide adequate care for the applicant’s needs, including having an available bed in the required category of care.