Mississippi's VA hospital is one of 15 on the U.S. Veteran's Administration's High Risk List.
An April quarterly report that compares V.A. medical centers found the Sonny Montgomery facility in Jackson, is failing in 5 out of 10 categories. Problems cited include "mortality." Medical Center Director Dr. David Walker says that category includes terminally ill patients who haven't discussed their end of life wishes with the hospital. He says when they pass away the death is listed as unexpected.
"We are working to have what we call those goals of care conversation in the outpatient arena because they're not easy conversations to have and they're not 20 to 30 second conversations," said Walker.
Walker says 60 physicians have been trained to have those conversations with patients. He says experts from VA headquarters are making trips to the medical center to advise them. They also have set up teams to tackle each category. They have to shorten hospital stays and reduce avoidable complications like infections from tubes placed in large arteries.
"We have a whole protocol looking at training, verifying training then we go around watching people doing it, watching them change dressings," said Walker.
Employee satisfaction is another hurdle. Eva Santoyo is part of a team that hired 82 registered nurses last August. Forty quit. She says a new buddy program is designed to help new and experienced nurses work better together.
"When a new nurse comes on, they're assigned to an experienced nurse and that nurse makes sure that that new nurse is familiar with everything that we do," said Santoyo.
Walker says he's hired 12 department heads and 18 physicians to also improve care. The medical center is doing well on low readmissions and preventive care.