The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been taken off a “high-risk” list in a national assessment of VA medical centers across the country, Interim Director Dave Whitmer announced Thursday.
The Roseburg VA had been named one of 15 hospitals on the VA’s high-risk list in February, with a one-star rating out of a possible five stars.
The star rankings are based on Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning data, or SAIL, which ranks how hospitals are performing on a range of measures from re-admissions after treatment to patient ratings, employee satisfaction and wait times.
“We are pleased with the direction of our SAIL ratings and that Roseburg is no longer on the high-risk list,” Whitmer said.
He said the VA will “continue to be diligent” evaluating its quality and reviewing improvements that have already been made to its scores for primary care, hospitalization for sensitive conditions and other performance measures. He said the VA will continue to strive for excellence and he expects to see continuous improvements in its ratings.
“This is a team effort and our staff takes pride in continually improving the care we give our veterans,” Whitmer said.
The Roseburg VA was one of five hospitals removed from the high-risk category.
The Roseburg VA’s one-star rating in 2017 put it in the bottom 10 percent of facilities nationwide. The 2018 star rating hasn’t been released yet, but improvement in its SAIL scores this year has put the VA on track to increase to at least a two-star rating by the end of the year, Whitmer said.
The Roseburg VA has yo-yoed between one star and two over the past couple of years. But up until 10 years ago, the facility consistently earned four- and five-star ratings.
At the beginning of 2016, the VA was ranked one star. When it jumped to two stars in the middle of that year, it was called one of the fastest improving hospitals of the year. At the time, then-director Doug Paxton said his goal was to return the facility to five stars.
Instead, in 2017, the VA lost its two-star rating, dropping back to one star. Paxton was himself under fire by then, as the Office of the Medical Inspector was investigating the VA. After it concluded senior leadership was creating a toxic environment, Paxton and other top managers stepped down and were reassigned to other VA jobs.
Whitmer, who took the helm in February, was given a year to begin turning things around and then help choose his own replacement.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, reacted to the news in an email Friday afternoon.
“This is a good step, but it is only one of many that the Roseburg VA needs to take in order to become a top-tier facility,” DeFazio said. “The next step is hiring a new director with strong leadership qualities, a history of working in veterans’ healthcare, and a proven track record of success in management. I look forward to working with this individual to ensure that we are doing all we can to provide the best care possible to southwest Oregon’s veterans.
He said improving the rating of the health care system is an important step, but it is crucial that VA leaders remain focused on improving all aspects of the Roseburg VA. He said that will take "continued intense focus" from the Roseburg VA's senior leaders, the regional network that oversees it, and the VA's central office in Washington, D.C.