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Administration at Big Spring's VA medical center welcomes new push for improvement
San Angelo Standard-Times - 2/6/2018
Feb. 06--A new push to improve low-performing medical facilities for veterans is coming as at an opportune time for the West Texas VA Health Care System in Big Spring.
Director Kalautie JangDhari, who has been with the facility since 2016, said for the last several months they have worked to improve performance.
"If anything, I think it's going to let us continue our path but a lot more quickly," she said. "We've been working with the national offices probably for three or four months; we knew we were struggling a bit ...and I think this is only going to fast-track us a little bit more on our trajectory that we were already on."
On Thursday the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will lay out an "aggressive new approach" to improve its 15 facilities that received the lowest score in its SAIL star rating system -- a one-star rating out of five.
Big Spring's facility received one star in the VA's end-of-year 2017 ratings. It also received one star in September 2017, September 2016 and December 2015, briefly rising to a two-star rating in June 2016.
"My concern was if we try to make a whole lot of changes without a good strategic plan then we would be making change for change, but I think now it's going to be this sustainable change," JangDhari said about not immediately reacting to low-score ratings dating back to 2015.
Her top three areas to improve are behavioral health, patient experience and same-day access to care.
"We have the ability to see patients now when they need to be seen," she said. "We just want to make sure we follow through with that follow-up care. It's always hard in those areas to keep up with patients to make sure there's always the continuity of care."
Addressing the "whole patient experience" tackles the need for better communication between staff and patients, and helping patients understand the number of ways they get care will help with access issues, she said.
The WTVAHCS serves 33 counties across West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, where more than 56,000 veterans live, according to the facility's website.
Shelia Austin, public affairs officer with WTVAHCS, said the facility has 618 employees, including 27 physicians, 103 registered nurses and 38 licensed vocational nurses.
"About a year ago we were having issues with recruiting and maintaining employees, and now we've overcome that, so we've got some sustainability of staff," JangDhari said. "Now all those plans that we've had in place we're able to execute."
Clinic staff and physician turnover rates are next in line for improvement.
As part of the new approach, the VA has put Peter Almenoff -- director of the VA'sOffice of Reporting, Analytics, Performance, Improvement and Deployment (RAPID) Healthcare Improvement Center -- to oversee improvement at each center.
It has also initiated its Strategic Action Transformation (STAT) to evaluate and monitor clinical performance, make accessible the VA's RAPID team to assist medical facilities in meeting their goals and conduct quarterly reviews.
The VA warned low-performing facilities that if they fail to make "rapid, substantial progress," corrective action will be taken -- including changes to facility leadership.
Other facilities targeted for performance overhaul include: Hampton, Virginia; Harlingen, Texas; Roseburg, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; Dublin, Georgia; El Paso, Texas; Jackson, Mississippi; Loma Linda, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; and Walla Walla, Washington.
Standing by her staff, JangDhari said "each of my staff are here for the right reasons. They're here to give back to those who have served.
"Forty percent of my staff are veterans themselves," she continued. "I think I have a great facility with very committed and dedicated personnel who are trying to do the right thing, and I know now we have that emphasis to even do better."
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