BARSTOW - The veterans home in Barstow just got a new bathtub, and they are proud of it.

The bathtub, a specially designed tub to bathe bed-bound residents, is just one of the many new pieces of equipment coming to the Veterans Home of California in Barstow as it prepares to reopen its skilled nursing wing. The wing is still on track to open in the next months, even as budget concerns ripple through the state.

"The department found a way to make cuts without decreasing care," former Barstow administrator Louis Koff said.

Koff, who will take over as the administrator at one of the California Department of Veterans Affairs' new homes in Los Angeles, said construction on the home will begin soon. A year ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed $2.3 million in the 2007-2008 budget to reopen the skilled nursing wing in Barstow. The state shut the wing down in 2003 after it found the death of two residents in 2002 was due to negligence.

That money is still intact, Koff said, in part because the veterans department made cuts elsewhere in its budget. Some expansions planned at either the Yountville or the Chula Vista homes and new programs scheduled to start up have been put on hold to save money. JP Tremblay, a spokesman for the department, said the none of the cuts would affect the level of care already provided.

Mona Schuitt, a supervising nurse at the Barstow home, is glad the skilled nursing wing is still on schedule to open. She worked at the home when the previous wing was open and said the return will make life easier on the residents.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said.

When the wing does open, it will be able to handle 20 residents, which is about the amount that must leave the Barstow home each year to receive nursing care elsewhere, Koff said. He hopes to fill the new wing with current residents in order to keep the family-atmosphere of the Barstow home together.

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