Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Department of Veterans Affairs releases health care quality data

By Jim Emerson, staff writer
This week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) quietly released the quality-of-care ratings of its 146 medical centers across the country. The previously withheld rating system showed that 120 medical facilities (82 percent) showed improvement and that scandal ridden medical centers continue to struggle.  The Phoenix Hospital, the epicenter of the wait-time scandal and the Tomah, Wisconsin facility, painkiller abuse, saw a decrease in performance this year. 
The performance ratings were released as a result of USA TODAY’s investigative reporting that exposed an internal memo which indicated whether VA hospitals were improving or declining. The story allowed the American public to see how their local VA facilities have been performing. 
VA Secretary Bob McDonald complained that the USA TODAY’s reporting had caused “unwarranted distress” for veterans seeking medical care.  The concern of the vets involves whether they are receiving quality care from the VA or are being placed on a permanent wait-list which could be called a “death panel.” The release will assure many that their local clinic is in good shape and does provide quality service. Yet the few that are poor performers should be rehabilitated before providing service to America’s Veterans.
The VA rates centers on a scale of one to five stars, five being the best. The ratings are based on several factors, including death and infection rates and wait times. VA officials told reporters “the star ratings were an internal improvement tool and not intended for the public because [of the concern that]hospitals with one star would be unfairly tarnished.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, told USA Today “Let’s face it, none of this, none of these abuses — the wait times, the opioids, these types of things — none of this would be known were it not for a free press, people like yourself digging and publicizing it.”  Johnson then added, “The natural tendency of any government bureaucracy, probably I think any organization, any human being, quite honestly, is not to be forthcoming, not to be transparent. Nobody wants to air their dirty linen.”
Most VA Medical Centers are first rate, but America’s Vets have the right to know if their local VA Hospital is sub-par. The VA needs to fix them, fire people or shut them down. Poor performance should never be rewarded.

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