Simmons gets two-week reprieve at NVC
By Carol Cole-Frowe
Former Gov. George Nigh negotiated a two-week grace period Wednesday on the involuntary discharge from the Norman Veterans Center of disabled Vietnam veteran Mike Simmons, who continues to fight to live at the center.
Simmons originally was given 30 days' notice that he would be discharged on Nov. 27, 2008, Thanksgiving Day, by Bob Weeks, NVC administrator who is now on leave before retirement. Weeks cited the facility's inability to provide health care that adequately met Simmons' needs.
The discharge notification occurred after Simmons complained publicly of insufficient medical care at the center and low staffing levels.
Later, Simmons was told he had until the end of December to find a new nursing facility, by former Oklahoma speaker pro tem Cal Hobson. The former Lexington legislator had been working with the Simmons family on the behalf of Gov. Brad Henry and Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Norman Lamb.
Hobson and the Simmons family plan to meet sometime next week.
"At this point, we've talked to a whole lot of nursing homes," Simmons said. "They are either full, or they don't want to deal with another (multiple sclerosis) patient, or it's because I'm contaminated with E. coli or they are too darn expensive."
Simmons appealed to Nigh earlier this week, with whom he had dealings while Simmons still owned his Oklahoma City advertising and marketing firm, Marcom Inc., before his MS progressed.
Nigh reportedly called Gov. Brad Henry to express concerns that Simmons could be removed at midnight Wednesday.
The Norman Veterans Center was subsequently contacted by Secretary Lamb, according to interim NVC administrator Thomas Walters.
"While I am not aware of any plans or preparations to discharge you tonight at midnight, we find acceptable your request through the offices of Gov. Nigh for a two-week grace period," Walters wrote Simmons in a letter delivered Wednesday. "Therefore, we shall plan for your discharge at the end of the two-week grace period which ends on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009."
Walters said Simmons asked Nigh for a two-week grace period and would receive it. He said social worker Britton Boyd has been working to try to find a new facility for Simmons.
Simmons said he asked Nigh to intercede, but did not mention the time period of two weeks. He said he believes it could take longer to find a facility that can take him.
"I promise I never said anything about a two-week grace period, Simmons said.
"That's just what we were told," Walters said.
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