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VA cites improvements at five hospitals removed from ‘high-risk’ list

Newington VA Medical Center. (Veterans Health/Flickr)

WASHINGTON — Five low-performing Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have improved enough in the past six months to no longer qualify as high risk, the VA announced Tuesday.

The VA hospitals in Dublin, Ga.; Harlingen, Texas; Roseburg, Ore., Nashville and Denver were removed from high-risk status based on new performance statistics released Tuesday.

The statistics, called the Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning, or SAIL, score hospitals based on 25 categories, including patient satisfaction, overall efficiency and death rates. The scorecards are used to rank hospitals using a star system – one star being the worst and five the best.

Last year, 15 hospitals, including the facilities in Dublin, Harlingen, Nashville, Roseburg and Denver, received one-star ratings. The VA in February announced an “aggressive new approach” to improving those hospitals, which included more direct oversight from VA headquarters.

At the 15 hospitals, 26 managers and senior leaders were removed – a result of “close scrutiny of performance trends,” said VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

The five hospitals removed from the high-risk list are on track to rise to two stars when the new star ratings are released, Cashour said. The new star ratings are expected to be made public before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Nine other VA hospitals are still designated as high risk. Those facilities are located in Hampton, Va.; Big Spring and El Paso, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; Loma Linda, Calif.; Memphis and Mufreesboro, Tenn.; Walla Walla, Wash., and Phoenix.

One hospital that made the high-risk list has gotten worse. The Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center was elevated to “critical” in July after a quarterly review found conditions had deteriorated.

The D.C. hospital has been under scrutiny since last year, when the VA inspector general warned of widespread failures that put veterans at risk. The warning prompted former VA Secretary David Shulkin to fire the hospital director. Since then, a series of temporary directors have led the facility.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said Aug. 7 that he would soon announce a new, permanent leader for the hospital. As of Tuesday, he had yet to name a replacement.


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