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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson today announced immediate actions to improve access to care for Veterans in Fayetteville, N.C. Today’s visit to the Fayetteville VA Medical Center (VAMC) follows the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) release of results from its Nationwide Access Audit, along with facility level patient access data.
“Far too many Veterans in Fayetteville – and across this country – are being told they have to wait in line. I’m here today to say that no Veteran should ever have to wait for the care they have earned through their service and sacrifice,” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “The data we released this week shows the extent of the problems we face. As the President has said, we must work together to fix the unacceptable, systemic problems in accessing quality healthcare. And that starts by addressing and solving the problems right here in Fayetteville.”
In addition to the system-wide actions taken in response to the audit findings and data, Gibson outlined actions to accelerate access to care for Veterans in Fayetteville:
The Fayetteville VAMC is reaching out to all Veterans identified as waiting longer than 30 days for care to discuss individual medical needs and schedule appointments – more than 2,000 Veterans have been contacted.
Gibson directed that the Fayetteville VAMC receive an additional $7.4 million from within VA’s budget specifically to accelerate access to care.
Fayetteville VAMC has expanded hours – adding mornings, evenings and weekends – and deployed a mobile care unit to see patients.
Gibson directed that the Fayetteville VAMC use temporary staffing measures, along with clinical and administrative support, to ensure these Veterans receive the care they have earned through their service.
Gibson directed that the Fayetteville VAMC increase the use of established contracts with community partners to schedule Veterans waiting to be seen by a doctor.
On Monday, VA announced the following actions in response to the Nationwide Access Audit findings and data:
Establishing New Patient Satisfaction Measurement Program- Gibson has directed VHA to immediately begin developing a new patient satisfaction measurement program to provide real-time, robust, location-by-location information on patient satisfaction, to include satisfaction data of those Veterans attempting to access VA healthcare for the first time. This program will be developed with input from Veterans Service Organizations, outside healthcare organizations, and other entities. This will ensure VA collects an additional set of data – directly from the Veteran’s perspective – to understand how VA is doing throughout the system.
Holding Senior Leaders Accountable- Where audited sites identify concerns within the parent facility or its affiliated clinics, VA will trigger administrative procedures to ascertain the appropriate follow-on personnel actions for specific individuals.
Ordering an Immediate VHA Central Office and VISN Office Hiring Freeze- Gibson has ordered an immediate hiring freeze at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) central office in Washington D.C. and the 21 VHA Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) regional offices, except for critical positions to be approved by the Secretary on a case-by-case basis. This action will begin to remove bureaucratic obstacles and establish responsive, forward leaning leadership.
Removing 14-Day Scheduling Goal- VA is eliminating the 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance plans. This action will eliminate incentives to engage in inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors.
Increasing Transparency by Posting Data Twice-Monthly- At the direction of the Acting Secretary, VHA will post regular updates to the access data released today at the middle and end of each month at VA.gov. Twice-monthly data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on Veterans access to quality healthcare.
Initiating an Independent, External Audit of Scheduling Practices- Gibson has also directed that an independent, external audit of system-wide VHA scheduling practices be performed.
Utilizing High Performing Facilities to Help Those That Need Improvement- VA will formalize a process in which high performing facilities provide direct assistance and share best practices with facilities that require improvement on particular medical center quality and efficiency, also known as SAIL, performance measures.
Suspending Performance Awards- VA has suspended all VHA senior executive performance awards for FY2014.
Gibson’s visit to North Carolina is a part of his continuing travel to VA facilities across the country where he is hearing directly from Veterans and employees about obstacles to providing timely, quality care, and how VA can immediately address them.