The VA hospitals in Middle Tennessee are again vowing to make improvements after being rated among the 15 lowest performing facilities in the country. The Nashville and Murfreesboro VA hospitals are still dealing with high staff turnover and scheduling problems.
This isn't the first year that these hospitals scored just a one on the five-point scale. But Army retiree Cory Stophlet says he gets good care at the Alvin York VA hospital in Murfreesboro. However, he has seen a revolving door of physicians, making him start over on his long history with neurological damage and post-traumatic stress.
"If the doctor's not a vet themselves, you're pretty much explaining everything from scratch," he says. "So that can actually be as frustrating as some of the problems you got into in the first place."
To fix the high turnover rate, especially among nurses, the Tennessee Valley VA is hiring a "chief experience officer" who will be charged with improving employee culture.
The hospitals also haven't cut down persistently high wait times. In Nashville, the latest figures show wait times for an appointment at 55 days. Local VA officials blame veterans who fail to show up for scheduled appointments but don't cancel. So they plan to launch a campaign that might drive down no-show rates.
The Tennessee Valley is responding to calls from the VA headquarters for more accountability at struggling facilities, with a four-point rapid improvement plan released Feb. 1. The local director points out that while the annual report rated her hospitals at the lowest-possible levels, the facilities showed improvements in several areas including mortality and infection rates.
“The current Tennessee Valley Healthcare System leadership team consists of the exact mix of personalities and skills needed to deliver positive change to Middle Tennessee Veterans,” TVHS director Jennifer Vedral-Baron said in a statement. “We accept that challenge.”