VA’s quiet moves to improve vet healthcare

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 27, 2018 - 11:47 am

Anthony Behar

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Recently, there’s been some quiet movement on the part of Veterans Affairs to improve healthcare for veterans. 

In January, VA moved the director of the 5-star rated Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VHSO) in Missouri to the troubled, 1-star rated Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, MS.  Additionally, Bryan C. Matthews, an Air force veteran, brings with him over 30 years of health care management experience. 

While at VHSO, Matthews achieved the 5-star rating for overall facility performance when compared to other VA medical centers.  In this position, Matthews oversees healthcare for more than 56,000 vets. 

He wasn't in the job for more than a month, and Matthews has already held a job fair as a way to attract and hire nurses to the low preforming facility.  The Biloxi VAMC has openings for about 60 nursing positions, specifically for operating room, intensive care and behavioral health.

Another 1-star VA facility had a change at the top, but right now the change is only temporary.  Chad Adams has moved to be the acting director of the Walla Walla VA Medical Center from the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Heath System (NFSG).  While at NFSG, Adams was the Assistant Director of Outpatient Clinics and Planning.  The two medical centers in the NFSG system are rated at 2-stars, with one – the Malcom Randall VAMC in Gainesville, FL actually fell one star this past year.

Adams will be responsible for the main VAMC in Walla Walla as well as four CBOCs, two Primary Care Tele-Health Outreach Clinics one contracted community clinic and an active home-based primary care program.  Adams has been working with the VA since 1994.

A recent data breach at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, MO has led to improved physical safeguards of sensitive information.  Job applications, patient and employee information, emails and some social security numbers were left in an unlocked and unattended file cabinet during a recent office move. 

Although there was no evidence that the files had been accessed, the hospital is taking immediate action.  “We have established new protocols for circumstances such as these,” said the center’s medical director, Dr. Patricia Hall.  New protocols include a locked staging area for future office moves as well as the VA’s standard one year free credit monitoring.

The interim director of the VA’s only medical center in New Hampshire has been moved to permanent status as director.  Alfred Montoya has been acting as director at the Manchester VAMC since July, when allegations of substandard care and treatment was widely reported.  Montoya had been running the White River Junction VAMC in Vermont before moving over to help fix the New Hampshire VAMC.

Even with reports of fly-invested operating rooms and surgical instruments that weren’t always sterilized, the Manchester facility actually gained a star when compared to the previous year’s rating. 

Since taking over, Montoya has started a first for the VA with a community partnership with the Catholic Medical Center which lets veterans use the CMC space for endoscopic procedures.  He’s also brought in a neurosurgeon to work with his team of consultants and has been working on new operating agreements. 

The VA is currently looking for new directors for Medical Centers in Bedford, MA (5); Buffalo, NY (3); Dublin, GA (1); Saginaw, MI (4); Danville, IL (3); Fayetteville, AR (4); Walla Walla, WA (1) and San Juan, Puerto Rico (3).  The numbers represent the most recent VA star rating.  You can find out more about what it takes to be a VA Network Director or Medical Center Director here