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Wisconsin VA Hospital Officials Say National Ratings Not Meant For Public

Ratings Released Last Week Show Wisconsin VA Hospitals Have 4 Or 3 Stars

Aeal a fixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C.
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

After a national newspaper published a ranking of the nation’s veterans hospitals, officials at Wisconsin’s Veterans Affairs Medical Centers say the ratings don’t provide a full picture of care at facilities in the state.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs evaluates their medical centers quarterly and rates them between one and five stars. USA Today published the rankings from the end of 2015 in an article last week.

But some officials said those ratings are meant to be used internally, not for the public.

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“They’re an internal learning tool that we as employees and VA leadership are able to take a look at as it relates to performance, as it relates to efficiency, as it relates to quality,” said Matthew Gowan, public affairs officer at the Tomah VA.

Gowan and other officials pointed out that the ratings are on a bell curve, so only so many hospitals can receive each rank.

“If Madison goes up in that ranking, somebody’s got to go down,” said John Rohrer, director of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison. “Not everybody can be a five, not everybody can be a four, not everybody can be a three, it has to be a distribution.”

And Daniel Zomchek, director of the Milwaukee VA, said the ratings are not the point of the evaluation.

“I think the meaning behind it is looking at what areas that we’re strong in that we can share and which ones that we have opportunities in to get better,” Zomchek said.

Both the Madison and the Milwaukee VAs are four-star facilities. The Tomah VA, which has had issues with providers over-prescribing pain medications and not following safety protocols, was awarded three stars.