VA blowing up underperforming medical centers

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 02, 2018 - 11:28 am

Photo by Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT/Sipa USA


VA announced a plan to improve its low-performing medical facilities this week, and isn’t wasting time starting the process either.  There are 15 one-star medical centers in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, but effective this weekend, one of those places is getting a new leader.

The one-star medical centers are: Hampton (Virginia); Harlingen (Texas); Roseburg (Oregon); Washington (DC); Big Spring (Texas); Denver (Colorado); Dublin (Georgia); El Paso (Texas); Jackson, (Mississippi); Loma Linda (California); Memphis (Tennessee); Murfreesboro (Tennessee); Nashville (Tennessee); Phoenix (Arizona); and Walla Walla (Washington).

 “President Trump has made it clear that our veterans deserve only the best when it comes to their healthcare, and that’s why we are focusing on improving our lowest performing facilities nationwide,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin. “We will employ tight timelines for facilities to demonstrate improvement, and if low performance persists, we will make swift changes -- including replacing facility leaders -- until we achieve the rapid improvements that Veterans and taxpayers expect from VA.”

The director of the Roseburg VA Health Care System, Doug Paxton, has agreed to stepdown and his interim replacement takes charge of one of VA’s lowest preforming facilities starting Feb. 4.  Paxton is being reassigned as assistant director at the Huntington, West Virginia VAMC.  The chief operating officer from the VA’s Sunshine Health Network in St. Petersburg, David L. Whitmer, has been named interim director.

“This action was necessary as a step to improve care for Veterans at Roseburg.  There are times that facility leadership needs to change in order to usher in a new approach that will demonstrate we are committed to delivering results for Veterans and taxpayers,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration.

“Mr. Whitmer is an experienced leader who brings to Roseburg a background of developing operational strategies, planning enterprise-wide business requirements, evaluating program effectiveness, and improving business operations into actions that transform the delivery of healthcare services to veterans.  We are looking forward to his leadership as we recruit a permanent director for Roseburg,” Clancy said.

Specifically, the Roseburg VAMC has five targeted areas for improvement:

  •  Access to care
  • Performance measures
  • Patient experience
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Mortality

To fix Roseburg and the rest of the underperforming VAMC’s, the VA has a come up with a four step process.

First, the VA created a central leadership role that will oversee improvements at each one-star center.  This position reports directly to Dr. Clancy.  Next they’ve started a new initiative called Strategic Action Transformation as a way to find vulnerabilities at each of the low-performing medical centers.  Next teams from VA’s Office of reporting, Analytics, Performance, Improvement and Deployment (RAPID) track improvements and send out improvement coaches to help reach goals.  And finally, leadership at the VA will review these facilities each quarter and make any needed changes – including leadership, should it be needed.

For two years now, VA has scored each of its medical centers using its SAIL star rating system. We’ve compiled these scores in a 

so you can see how your medical center measures up.  The VA has a way for you to take this information even further.  Go here and you can compare not just the medical center, but the individual health care topic and see how your medical center stacks up with the rest of the country.