Silencing Employees? Is that Good for Patient Safety at the VHA?

From Beyond Chron

New Threats to Patient Safety at the VHA

by Suzanne Gordon on March 9, 2017

VA Hospital in Washington DC

VA Hospital in Washington DC

Ever since a physician at the Phoenix VA Health Care System reported that Veterans Health Administration (VHA) administrators had been gaming data on wait times for patient appointments, VA whistleblowers have been embraced on Capitol Hill. There may be disagreement in Washington about the future of the VHA, but there is bi-partisan agreement that VHA employees should be supported and rewarded when they act to protect their patients.

Unfortunately, not enough legislators and veterans advocates understand that acting to create real patient safety involves far more than being a traditional whistleblower, which, as Webster’s dictionary explains, is “one who reveals something covert or who informs against another.” Or as the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act defines it, involves reporting a “violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.” 

As an extensive literature on patient safety documents, patient safety depends not primarily on the acts of heroic whistleblowers, but on the creation of a workplace environment where you don’t have to be a hero to voice concerns or criticisms, share insights, and make suggestions for change on a daily basis. READ MORE

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Veterans Health Is Really Good

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Studies Show Veterans Health Care Improving

When the House Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing on September 7 to assess the future of the Veterans Health Administration, federal lawmakers would do well to consider recent reports that challenge the continual drumbeat of negative and often unfair coverage and congressional criticism of the VHA.

One report, from the RAND Corporation, said that while there were differences in care and leadership culture across the system, researchers “did not find evidence of a system-wide crisis in access to VA care.” In fact, the report identified congressional policies as one of the main barriers to VHA improvements (despite the Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller’s apparent belief that firing VHA leaders is the solution to any access problems). The report noted that “inflexibility in budgeting stem[med] from the congressional appropriation processes,” and concluded that the hastily designed and implemented Veterans Choice Program, “further complicated the situation and resulted in confusion among veterans, VA employees, and non-VA providers.”

Though it received no media attention, another positive report on the VHA came this month from the Joint Commission, the independent nonprofit that accredits U.S. hospitals and health-care organizations. After surveying the VHA between 2014 and 2015, the commission found improvements in access, timeliness, and coordination of care, as well as in leadership, safety, staffing, and competency.  Read More.