U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., is calling on the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct an investigation of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove three weeks after a trio of deaths of coronavirus-positive veterans living at the facility were reported.
Steil calls for investigation of Union Grove veterans home where 10 people with COVID have died
Although Steil only referenced those three deaths in a news release Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed to The Journal Times that 10 residents of the nursing home (nine of whom were veterans and one who was a veteran’s spouse) have died amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The home is operated by the WDVA for veterans and their family members in need of long-term nursing care. Of the 10 who have died and were infected with COVID-19, five were on hospice care prior to becoming infected with the coronavirus. A WDVA spokeswoman noted that for patients at the home, it is difficult to determine whether coronavirus was the primary cause of death, since so many of the residents are elderly and have compromised immune systems.
As of Aug. 16, 40 people involved with the home — 20 residents and 20 staff members — had tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, another nine cases have been confirmed among residents, bringing the present total to 29 within the nursing home. Prior to August, the coronavirus had not been confirmed at the home, showing how quickly the highly contagious virus can spread in a nursing home setting.
Last month, federal Veterans Affairs nurses were sent to the facility to support the diminished staff since so many were quarantining at home.
Three areas highlighted
In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, Steil wrote, “Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in America, we have known that this virus presents significant risks to older populations and has been especially deadly in nursing home situations. Given the data we have seen, it is imperative that significant precautions be maintained in these facilities.”
Steil wants an investigation to look into three things specifically:
- How the outbreak began.
- What mitigation measures are now in place, in addition to the quarantines for COVID-positive residents.
- What the WDVA plan is to “prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in other” state-run facilities.
In a statement to the press, Steil said: “I am deeply concerned about the coronavirus outbreak within the Union Grove veterans home, resulting in the death of three residents. Veterans, their families, and our community deserve answers. We must protect our veterans and frontline health care workers.
“Union Grove must put a plan in place to prevent, mitigate and respond to not only this outbreak, but potential future cases. Our veterans sacrificed their lives to fight for our nation. I will continue fighting for our veterans to ensure this is addressed as quickly as possible.”
The WDVA also operates a veterans home at King in Waupaca County.