VA Has Trouble Luring Skilled Medical Workers to Fill Voids

In August 2007, a patient in a VA medical center bled to death following a gall bladder surgery. Three days later, a surgeon resigned from his position in the Marion, Illinois VA medical center. Within a month, all inpatient surgeries were suspended and 4 keys players in the Marion VA medical center were either relocated or gone. A subsequent investigation discovered: 

  • At least 9 deaths occurred between 10/2006 – 3/2007 from substandard care; and
  • 10 patients died following debatable health care that inevitably complicated their health. 

Following the investigation, the VA Inspector General released a report highlighting grave problems with the health care being provided in the Marion VA medical center ranging from procedures being performed without proper authorization to substandard evaluations of patient deaths. 

In response, VA Secretary Shinseki sent a quality management team to the Marion VA to make a six week evaluation of the situation and charged them with reporting back to both Shinseki and Senator Durbin (Ill). At the same time, the VA appointed a retired VA administrator to serve as the hospital’s interim administrator. 

Under this interim administrator, the Marion VA has a new training arrangement that includes: 

  • Employee mentoring; and
  • Copious documentation of all management actions. 

Rebuilding the Marion VA medical center is something Senator Durbin is dedicated to making happen. Right now, inpatient surgeries are still suspended, they are still in need of surgeons, and their ER room is understaffed. As an attraction for employment, salaries have been raised for both trauma doctors and nurses. Word is still out on if the end-of-the-year spending bill President Obama signed last week will include money for the Marion VA medical center to use as incentives to attract quality medical workers.