I spend my waking moments thinking about how the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center can better serve our veterans, and I think of recent events and how some folks are questioning our commitment. The past few months have seen some challenging times at the Jackson VA.
Recent publicity has captured the attention of oversight organizations charged with ensuring that health care facilities are taking care of their patients and providing a safe working environment for its employees. We welcome these organizations as a check to ensure we are providing the best quality of care to our veterans in a safe and clean environment. I’d like to share some results.
On April 1-9, an inspection team from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration visited and reviewed employee training records, inspected the equipment sterilization process, observed the sterilization process and spoke with employees. After almost 10 days, there were two minor findings — a power cord was “daisy-chained” together, which was corrected on the spot, and some employee training was not completed within a calendar year, which OSHA requires, but was completed within a fiscal year, which the VA requires. We retrained the employees while the inspector was still on site.
A few weeks later, on May 3, we had an initial (unannounced) survey by The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations for our new Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center. That inspection yielded one indirect finding — an emergency light in the building had not been tested. We tested it on the spot.
Then, on June 3-4, TJC visited us again. This time to conduct a “mini” full survey of the hospital based on the Office of Special Counsel complaints which were filed. The survey team, consisting of a doctor and nurse, from the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector, reviewed records, spoke to employees and interviewed veterans. The result was only one indirect finding regarding precharted documentation on a quality log.
So, in short, we have had three major (unannounced) inspections over the past three months from oversight organizations in the health care industry and employee safety. The findings did not impact patient care.
While these are good results, we know we’re not finished. Recently, two more OSC complaints have been filed, one related to pharmacy and one related to credentialing and privileging of staff. When the results of these reviews are known we will quickly address any opportunities for improvement.
I have heard that a few wish to see the VA or the Jackson VA shut down. I am disappointed by such thoughts, and such actions would not serve veterans in Mississippi. I believe the VA is specifically equipped to meet the full array of services our veterans need. I want every eligible veteran in the state of Mississippi to use their earned medical benefits and be comfortable using the VA Medical Center. The (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center has an annual operating budget of $350 million which significantly impacts the economic base of our community while employing more than 2,000 people. I want employees and veterans to know that my door is open to ideas, which will improve patient care.
Much has been accomplished during the past year. We were selected to be one of 15 National Pilots in Mental Health exploring partnerships with community mental health organizations to increase access for veterans. We’ve housed 244 homeless veterans and are providing them with critical health care and other support, we’ve co-sponsored two very successful job fairs and on Aug. 26 we’re opening our new women’s clinic. Female veterans are our fastest growing population, and I want the 9,000 plus women veterans in our catchment area to know that the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center is here for you.
While all these changes are good for veteran care, we recognize that we always will have work to do. This is a place of honor. More than 44 percent of our employees are veterans. Every eligible veteran in Mississippi deserves nothing less than our full devotion to their care. It is our commitment to this nation.
As we move forward, we will continue to embrace the tenets of ICARE (integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence) and seek to improve every facet of our health care. So on this July 4, we will be thinking of our veterans and their families. And if you’re traveling down Woodrow Wilson, you will see the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, on the high ground, where all the American flags are flying.