New Data Shows Previous Declines, Recent Improvements At Tomah VA

Internal Reviews Of Medical Center Show Employee Satisfaction Improving

Maureen McCollum/WPR

The Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center is ranked 41 out of the nation’s 129 veterans hospitals, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA published quarterly internal reviews dating back to 2012 on its website this week. The decision comes after USA Today published star ratings of all VA hospitals in the United States in December.

The Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) report measures areas like in-hospital complications, hospital readmission rates and patient satisfaction. The data is used to compare VA hospitals to each other and place facilities on a bell curve from one to five stars.

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The latest ranking is a dramatic jump for the Tomah VA, which was ranked 77th at the start of 2016. According to VA officials, the center is two points away from becoming a four-star facility.

Director Victoria Brahm said the Tomah VA is still recovering from several years of turmoil over provider misconduct and a veteran’s death from a mixture of prescription drugs in 2014.

“We had some bad scores related to loss of staff during some tragic times, and so the scores went down,” Brahm said. “Now it’s going to take us awhile to get up, because some of the scores are scored over a 12-month period.”

The current turnover rate for registered nurses at the Tomah VA is just below 14 percent, higher than 90 percent of all VA hospitals.

But it’s an improvement for Tomah. According to the new data, the center’s RN turnover rate has been higher than 50 percent of VA hospitals since at least 2012. But the rate began to steadily increase starting in 2014, until it reached 16 percent in 2016.

Brahm said the latest declines in the turnover rate mean employees are starting to believe the center can improve.

“What we kind of did with Tomah is try and develop this vision and get people to buy into it, and once they bought into it, then getting the community to trust us again,” Brahm said.

The Tomah VA’s employee satisfaction score went up 9 percent in the most recent internal review. The center’s patient satisfaction score improved by 8 percent.