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Salisbury VA touts improved quality of care rating

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — An internal assessment shows the Salisbury VA system moved up one spot in a quality of care rating used to compare Veterans Affairs hospitals, Director Kaye Green announced this week.

Green said the Salisbury VA recently moved from a three-star to a four-star rating under a quality improvement tool called Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning, abbreviated SAIL. It’s intended to be a measure of how the facility is improving rather than a way to make health care choices.

Green said the Salisbury VA system is actively working on reaching a five-star rating — the highest possible level.

“Our veterans deserve the highest quality of care and we will not settle for less,” she said. “We’re not perfect, but we are striving for excellence in all that we do.”

She said the four-star rating means the Salisbury VA falls in the top 70 percent to 90 percent of all facilities judged with the SAIL system.

In North Carolina, only the Asheville VA beat Salisbury. Asheville received five stars, the Durham VA received three stars and Fayetteville received two.

A lower rating by another hospital doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s significantly worse than the Salisbury VA, Green said. If one hospital improves to a four-star level, it may mean another falls to three stars regardless of whether it also improved, she said. In fact, all North Carolina VA hospitals saw an improvement in their SAIL rating, according to publicly available data.

As part of its four star rating, the Salisbury VA got five stars in some areas, including acute care admission and continued stay reviews. Four-star areas included speciality care appointment wait times and rating of primary care providers.

Meanwhile, the average wait times for three main categories of care at the Salisbury remain above average, according to the latest publicly available wait time data. The average wait time for primary care in the Salisbury VA system is 4.47 days. Nationally it’s 4.17 in the VA system. Specialty care has a 8.76-day wait time compared to the national number of 6.49 days. In mental health, the Salisbury VA wait time is 3.65 days compared to the national number of 2.62 days.

Green said the Salisbury VA has made significant improvement since the problems noted in a recent inspection —falsifying wait times and a backlog of radiology exams.

Green said the Salisbury VA’s wait times for primary care rank better than private-sector appointment wait times. However, there’s no empirical number to use for non-VA facilities, said Salisbury VA Chief of Staff Dr. Subbarao Pemmaraju. There are some services that non-VA hospitals don’t provide, Pemmaraju said.

When asked what the SAIL rating means for patients, Pemmaraju said said the Salisbury VA provides “some of the best health care out there.” In cases where the Salisbury VA doesn’t offer specific types of care, he said staff would refer the veteran to a location that would provide an appointment in a timely manner.

“I can assure any veterans that comes in that we are going to provide the best quality care possible,” he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correctly state the spelling of Kaye Green’s name. 

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