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DC VA center downgraded to one-star rating, worst ever

Washington DC VA Medical Center (Veterans Health/Flickr)
March 06, 2019

The VA medical center at the nation’s capital was relegated to a dismal 1-star rating out of five stars, putting it in the bottom 10 percent of all VA hospitals.

Following an unimpressive 2-star rating for the previous year, the Inspector General concluded his report for the Washington DC VA
Medical Center on Jan. 28 which harshly criticized the center and called for improvements, according to a recent Washington Post report.

The report noted “deficiencies in infection prevention, environmental cleanliness, sterile supplies, medical equipment safety and mental health seclusion room safety,” along with poor employee training and turnover rates.

One of the departments that need a complete overhaul is human resources, which saw 10 different administrators in just five years between Jan. 2012 and July 2017.

The report stated the high volume of turnover for administrators could be responsible for the “lack of evidence of ongoing, coordinated efforts to improve identified deficiencies, employee relations, and patient care,” Connecting Vets reported, along with “deficiencies in infection prevention, environmental cleanliness, sterile supplies, medical equipment safety, and mental health seclusion room safety.”

Patient reports had not been recorded into the electronic system from 2014, making it impossible for healthcare providers to access the necessary information.

The VA argues that these records are not vital to patient care.

A spokesperson for the VA said, “All of these records have been triaged by registered nurses to ensure required follow up care as needed. Currently there are 905 inches of documents left to be scanned, 800 inches of which consist of redundant information, such as discharge instructions.”

In October, Michael Heimall took over as HR chief, and he vowed that the agency would see improvement under new direction.

“While the IG found a number of opportunities for improvement, we welcome the scrutiny and consider this an opportunity to redouble our efforts to serve Veterans. The medical center is under new leadership and on a new path, and we look forward to working with the necessary stakeholders and local and national VA leaders in order to complete all of the IG’s recommendations,” Heimall said.

The report did note some improvements, both significant and insignificant, in terms of the availability of supplies for tests, dialysis, surgery, and oxygen.

“The Star rating designation is designed to help VA identify best practices of its top performing hospitals and share them with facilities with challenges in similar areas. Although the Washington DC VA Medical Center is rated one-star, we have seen overall improvement in quality measures and will continue to implement sustainable processes and value-based health care for veterans,” Gloria Hairston, spokesperson for the D.C. VA center, told Connecting Vets.