El Paso VA deemed 'high-risk facility' following one-star rating

VA onestar rating

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs spotlighted 15 one-star facilities across the nation, El Paso's VA was listed among the pack.

 Director of El Paso's VA Michael Amaral responded to the announcement, "My primary focus is not the Star rating; it is the underlying metrics.  I want our Veterans to be able to get in for care they need; I want to get them in for that care in a timely manner; I want them treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, and compassion during their entire visit; and I want the staff to treat each other with dignity and respect."

The VA stated in the release that it is taking "an aggressive new approach to produce rapid improvements at VA's low-performing medical facilities nationwide."

The one-star facilities include: Hampton (Virginia); Harlingen (Texas); Roseburg (Oregon); Washington (DC); Big Spring (Texas); Denver (Colorado); Dublin (Georgia); El Paso (Texas); Jackson, (Mississippi); Loma Linda (California); Memphis (Tennessee); Murfreesboro (Tennessee); Nashville (Tennessee); Phoenix (Arizona); and Walla Walla (Washington).

The local VA is considered a "high-risk facility," according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "A lot of the metrics are twelve month averages, so things that weren't quiet last February are still being calculated into our data," Amaral said.

Those metrics include appointment wait time, mental health, primary care and employee satisfaction, etc.

In an attempt to increase the care at one-star facilities the national department's plan includes: national accountable leadership, comprehensive analysis and identification of improvement targets, provision of national resources for improvement and accountability for results.

"We routinely have visitors from the VA central office coming in here to help us to help improve," Amaral said. "What are we not seeing that we can improve on?"

Amaral questioned how his facility can see more patients but still provide quality care. "It's not going to be a cattle-call and just shove patients through. I am not going to sacrifice patient safety or quality for anything."

The director told ABC-7 his facility will continue to work on improving care for veterans and that he is determined to improve the one-star rating.

"I don't want to set a timeline to it," Amaral said. "I have told my staff that we are aggressively moving forward with this, but it is not going to affect the quality and safety of the care we provide."

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