VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Rima Nelson have announced additional federal resources coming to Phoenix to build on the progress being made for Arizona Veterans.

Following a day-long visit Thursday to the Carl T. Hayden Phoenix VA Health Care System, his second in two months, Gibson said “The sustained and continued improvement of the Phoenix VA Health Care System is a department priority. We have the opportunity to take advantage of VA’s scale and scope as the nation’s largest integrated health care system to help Rima and her team in Phoenix. There are best practices and expertise from across the nation that we are bringing to bear in order to deliver more consistent, high-quality care to Veterans. I have great confidence in Rima and her team in Phoenix and have committed to come back every month this year to work directly with them.”

Deputy Secretary Gibson visits Phoenix

While in Phoenix, Deputy Secretary Gibson met with employees at the Phoenix Regional Office, including those in the National Call Center.

“In my first full week here in Phoenix, I have been meeting with employees and leaders at the facility and I am pleased to hear so many good ideas on how we can improve,” said director of the Phoenix VA Health Care Center Rima Nelson. “Yesterday we had very frank conversations with the entire leadership team about what we need to do to move forward and I’m appreciative of the support we’re receiving. Some of the best and brightest from across VA are coming to Phoenix and that can only mean good things for the Veterans we serve.”

Resources being provided to the Phoenix VA Health Care System include:

We are committed to providing the resources the Phoenix VA Health Care System needs to make needed process improvements to provide more consistent, high quality care to Veterans.

  • Last fiscal year, VA provided an additional $54 million to leadership in Phoenix to make needed staff hires.
  • This week, VA announced an additional $28 million for Fiscal Year 2017 coming to Phoenix, most of which will be used to hire critical staff.
  • This week marks the third week of a three month intervention by national process improvement experts to the Phoenix VA Health Care System. Their team specializes in working with leadership, service chiefs, and front line staff to create an improvement infrastructure leading to consistent high quality performance and continuous improvement.

We continue our efforts to change the culture at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

  • Last week, Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin announced the appointment of a permanent director and chief of staff for the Phoenix VA Health Care System: Rima Nelson and Dr. Maureen McCarthy. Both Nelson and McCarthy told employees that they planned to have an open door policy and a culture that values the input and ideas from employees. As new director Rima Nelson said, “I can’t fix what I don’t know. I need you to tell me what’s not working. And I expect you to be a part of the solution.”
  • With a new medical center director in place, the Phoenix VA Health Care System is now moving forward quickly to fill the additional leadership positions including the deputy medical center director and associate director. In the meantime, we have detailed accomplished leaders from other medical centers in Phoenix so progress can continue.
  • Enhanced training is being provided to all leadership at the Phoenix VA Health Care System on how to embrace whistleblowers and build a culture of continuous improvement.

We are bringing best practices and training from across VA’s integrated health system to Phoenix. Taking advantage of VA’s scope and scale, we can bring needed expertise and talent to Phoenix to provide better training which lead to more consistent and more timely care for Veterans.

  • The Phoenix VA Health Care System will be the first facility in the nation to use a new training for employees who schedule medical appointments. New employees will receive a two-week course and all current employees who have the ability to schedule appointments will receive a mandatory three-day course. This needed training will remove the inconsistencies that exist across the medical center and across our VA system at large The train-the-trainer approach comes from temporarily assigned experts from the Orlando VA Medical Center.
  • Leaders in Phoenix are looking closely at ways to more efficiently hire and on-board new employees. Phoenix has taken advantage of expertise from the Loma Linda VA medical center in California to maximize the flexibilities that exist in the federal hiring rules so they can more efficiently hire the right people for the right positions.
    • Process changes have been made to allow job descriptions to move out more quickly to speed up the hiring process.
    • This comes after more than 700 net hires of medical personnel to better provide timely access to Phoenix-area Veterans.

We are increasing the capacity of the Phoenix VA Health Care System to provide more access to care for Phoenix-area Veterans.

  • We are delivering better access to care and we know that because we are delivering more care: 38 percent more clinical work than we did over a two period (2013-2015). That includes internal capacity and the use of Care in the Community.
  • In addition to the medical center and seven CBOCs, leadership in Phoenix is working to open two new community-based outpatient clinics early next year adding 50,000 more feet of space for patient care. This builds on the 70,000 square feet of clinic space that has been added in the past two years.
  • Work continues to open the expanded emergency department later this year. It will add needed emergency department space by doubling the current bed capacity from 20 to 40 beds. Phoenix VA Health Care System is working closely with TriWest and across the enterprise to develop a surge capacity for winter months when “snowbirds” annually increase the amount of care needed at the Phoenix VA.
    • In October, leaders at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, TriWest and across the enterprise will have planned for the 30,000 “snow birds”, their health care needs and how to flex capacity better than ever before.
  • Where possible, the Phoenix VA Health Care System will take advantage of capacity in other VA medical centers for the evaluation of exams.
    • For example, we are finalizing a process by which once a sleep study is conducted in Phoenix, medical providers from the Alaska VA Medical Center will assist with reading and evaluating the studies, freeing up more capacity here in Phoenix. This will allow the Phoenix VA Health Care System to tackle a backlog of sleep studies conducted but not yet evaluated.

This news release was submitted by the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

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Published on Oct. 14, 2016

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2 Comments

  1. st fran October 21, 2016 at 10:55 am

    This is what is wrong in a nutshell –
    ‘And I expect you to be a part of the solution’
    When you force the people reporting the problem to do the work to fix the problems management sidesteps the responsibility.
    Politicians make these kind of statements and then nothing gets fixed, or fixed wrong because upper management is incompetent and holds the ‘whistleblower’ to count for not having a solution.
    Need management willing to do ‘whatever’ they need to fix,repair,replace system not friendly to both workers and customers.

  2. William Tuey October 14, 2016 at 10:46 am

    This is needed. Currently it is practice of certain clinics to wait 7 days before opening a request for an appointment, (5 working days = 7 calander days). Then another 14 days (10 working days) to contact the veteran to schedule an appointment and 30 working days to see the veteran. This perverts the rule of seeing a veteran in 30 days. Also there are big delays with prosthetics ordering requested items for veterans, delays have been up to 6 months. This will not remedy itself and those evaluating the PHOENIX VA will be unable to correct the system until they know these things are occurring.

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