VA Hospital Releases Report On Temporary "Pause" (VIDEO)

By Paula Hinton
By Rachel Martin
By Corinne Rose

August 4, 2013 Updated Aug 5, 2013 at 6:21 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – After a scathing report, the intensive care unit remains closed at the Northern Indiana Veterans Affairs hospital.

The VA's chief of staff answered our questions about the Inspector General's report.

He says multiple changes in procedure and policy have been implemented since the "pause" in treatment at the Fort Wayne VA's 26 acute care and ICU beds last October.

The report by the VA's Inspector General began after Senator Joe Donnelly and Congressman Marlin Stutzman asked for one last fall.

The report found too many open upper and mid-level leadership positions; limited compliance in maintaining nurse competencies; and lapses in clinical judgment by caregivers.

The VA’s chief of staff says it can be difficult to find qualified candidates to fill physician and management jobs, since the VA typically pays less than the private sector.

But he said there are now oversight panels in place to ensure patient care is top-notch.

“We have also done some new SOPs, or standard operating procedures, which mandates that certain handoffs or handing off of this information from one person to another is done, it's measured, and then it's reviewed by the leadership so that we know that this is now working better than it was before,” Dr. Ajay Dhawan says.

The VA's 22 acute care beds are open for patients, but the four ICU beds are not. If it is to be re-certified as a Level Four ICU, the most basic in that level of care, the VA is evaluating whether there is enough need for the beds.

Since those beds average about a patient a day, administrators are analyzing whether it's more cost-effective for those patients to receive care at another hospital in town.

We now know what led to the temporary suspension of inpatient care at the Fort Wayne VA Hospital.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General issued a report late last week that found the facility did not effectively and consistently fill upper and mid-level leadership positions, there were lapses in clinical judgment by individual providers, and there was limited compliance in maintaining nurse competencies.

Managers that were in place often did not provide necessary leadership.

The office selected three patient cases and found that monitoring of vital signs were not being followed resulting in the patient being transferred to non-VA facilities.

The Fort Wayne facility is slowly restoring services as problems are addressed in the report.

The report was commissioned by Senator Joe Donnelly and 3rd District Congressman Marlin Stutzman.

Upon the report's release, Donnelly issued the following statement, "What we learned from the VA Office of Inspector General today regarding the Fort Wayne VA Hospital is completely unacceptable. The most troubling finding is that conditions last year, resulting in the suspension of inpatient services, stemmed from a years-long pattern of poor hospital leadership and a lack of quality care that placed its patients at risk.”

Congressman Stutzman had this to say, “The VA's failures, as outlined by the Inspector General's report, are upsetting and inexcusable. The Veterans Health Administration must implement the inspector general's recommendations without delay. Veterans who defended our freedoms now depend on the VA and deserve nothing less than the highest quality care right here in Fort Wayne.”

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