It’s stating the obvious, but the big story everywhere is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so much of our practice involves helping veterans who have been treated at VA facilities, we have a special interest in how the VA is dealing with this crisis. The VA Inspector General surveyed the readiness of VA hospitals concerning screening and testing for COVID-19. The study was done between March 19 and 24, 2020.
The findings are troubling:
Of 58 medical centers surveyed, 41 (71%) were found to have “adequate” screening procedures. Sixteen had “opportunities for improvement.” One was found to be outright inadequate.
Of 125 outpatient centers, four (3%) had no screening process in place.
Of 53 Community Living Centers surveyed, nine (17%) did not restrict visitors as had been directed earlier.
Think about that: If 41 medical centers are adequate, what exactly is meant by 16 having “opportunities for improvement.” The inspectors found they did not rise to the level of “adequate,” but were not so bad as to be deemed “inadequate.” Four outpatient facilities had no screening in place. That is truly shocking. That 17% of Community Living Centers still did not keep out visitors is equally shocking.
Fox News recently reported on this story.
Frankly, its summary of the study overstated the findings, not that the VA didn’t look bad enough already. It reported, however, that a VA spokesperson had taken issue with what it called a “dated” report. It’s not very dated, but in all fairness, this is a very fast-moving situation. However, the spokesperson went on to attack the methodology of the report saying the IG investigators may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 because of how it was conducted. With that, they lost credibility with me. I wish I could say I was surprised.
Time will tell how the VA copes with this pandemic. The VA patient population is probably at significantly higher risk. The VA does not always have a stellar record for dealing with situations far less dire than what we are confronting now. Let’s hope it rises to the occasion.