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Federal inspection finds many areas for improvement at Salisbury VA

SALISBURY — A detailed federal inspection of the Salisbury VA hospital released Tuesday found at least two dozen problem areas for the facility.

The inspection, conducted March 27 by the VA Office of Inspector General, reviewed a wide array of services in the Salisbury VA system. The report made at least two dozen recommendations based on a lengthy list of problems that included inadequate record-keeping. In other areas, it was unclear whether care met standards, the report said.

Reaction from Rowan County’s congressmen and senators ranged from calling it inexcusable to saying the report serves as a reminder of work that needs to be done.

In conjunction with releasing the report, interim Salisbury VA Director Linette Baker said staff members are “dedicated to the mission of proudly serving those who have served and being the preferred health care system for the veterans of central North Carolina.”

The assessment released Tuesday is done every three years, Baker said. It aims to identify areas for improvement to ensure veterans receive “high-quality, veteran-centered care” that equals or exceeds what they can get in the private sector, she said.

Some examples of the findings in the report include:

• A lack of evidence that patients received education about newly prescribed medicine.

• Patient transfer notes not being fully completed.

• Chemicals stored in an unlocked supply cart in an area accessible to patients.

• A number of ventilation grills being dusty.

• Patient nourishment refrigerators containing unlabeled food.

Examples of recommendations include:

• Clinicians provide education to patients with newly prescribed anticoagulant medications.

• A number of suggestions about properly completing transfer notes.

• That employees secure chemicals when not in use.

• Ensuring air conditioning units are clean.

• Monitoring whether refrigerators contain unlabeled food.

Inspectors said they could not determine whether the following are in place at the Salisbury VA: effective documentation; communication and quality improvement processes for certain decisions; a clean environment in the emergency department; a safe inter-facility transfer process; and an effective process for managing disruptive or violent behavior.

The report also contained data about wait times, which improved at the W.G. “Bill” Hefner Salisbury VA Medical Center for new and established patients during the 2016 fiscal year — the period reviewed in the report. New patients saw an improvement in wait times from 13.2 days to 9.7 days, according to the report. Wait times for established patients started at 5.3 days, spiked to 7.4 days and ended at 3.9 days in the 2016 fiscal year, according to the report.

However, the report says inspectors did not examine wait-time data for accuracy or completeness.

The regional and Salisbury VA director said they agreed with the findings and recommendations in a response to the inspection.

One of Rowan County’s congressmen called the report inexcusable.

“As the voice for North Carolina’s veterans, I’m appalled any time a veteran is suffering because of negligence from the VA,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8. “This time is no different. I call on the Salisbury VAMC to immediately implement the VA OIG’s recommendations. I’ll work to ensure they clean up their act and get our veterans the quality care they deserve.”

Rep. Ted Budd, R-13, said men and women who served their country should not be victims of a VA system that “continues to struggle to deliver the care that veterans deserve.”

“It’s frustrating that the Salisbury VA continues to underperform, and I’ll continue to support legislation to ensure that veterans in our state have the best possible care,” Budd said in an emailed statement.

North Carolina’s two Republican senators issued a joint statement calling the report a reminder of work that needs to be done to improve VA facilities.

“We’re grateful to the Office of Inspector General for catching these issues so they can be directly addressed and resolved,” Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis said. “We will continue to work with the Salisbury VA and exercise close oversight to ensure that all necessary changes are implemented.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.



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