How the VA is tackling under performing medical centers

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 07, 2018 - 4:49 pm

Last week, the VA announced a plan to fix its under performing medical centers.  Here’s what’s being reported by hometown media where three of those one-star facilities are located.

Harlingen (Texas)

On Friday, reported that the medical center had a working group in place to “take not just (the star rating system) but a really good look at how we are implementing these initiatives to improve,” according to spokesperson Ray Leal.  In fact according to Leal, efforts to make improvements have been under way for months.

Efforts include streamlining hospital admissions, discharges and medication management for vets who need more complex care.

El Paso (Texas)

KVIA in El Paso reached out to Michael Amaral, Director of the VAMC there.  Areas that need improvement here include appointment wait time, mental health, primary care and employee satisfaction.  About this “high risk” facility, Amaral says, “We routinely have visitors from the VA central office coming in here to help us to help improve.”

As for when things would improve, “I don’t want to set a timeline to it, “ Amaral said.  “I have told my staff that we are aggressively moving forward with this, but it is not going to affect the quality and safety of the care we provide.”

Big Spring (Texas)

Reported in the Abilene Reporter-News, the Big Spring VAMC has, with the exception of a brief two-star flirtation in June 2016, been a one star medical center since December 2015. Center director, Kalautie JangDhari said that the hospital has been working to improve performance for the last several months. 

“If anything, I think it’s going to let us continue our path but a lot more quickly,” said JangDhari about the VA’s new push for improvements.  “We’ve been working with the national offices probably for three or four months; we knew we were struggling a bit… and I think this is only going to fast-track us a little bit more on our trajectory that we were already on.”

The top three areas to improve at Big Spring VAMC are behavioral health, patient experience and same-day access to care, according to JangDhari.  Another issue, recruiting and keeping employees seems to only a problem of the past, so JangDhari said they are now able to execute improvement plans