VA St. Louis Health Care System
Setting the Record Straight on Surgery Closure
To the Veterans we proudly serve at the St. Louis VA Medical Center,
Many of you have seen or heard news stories about the temporary closing of our surgical suites as we determine what is causing spots to appear on some surgical trays. Some news reports may not tell you that this situation is actually an example of VA’s vigilance in providing you the safe care you earned when you served this Nation.
Please know that no patients were harmed and that all necessary surgery is being performed at VA expense. This closure is due to VA’s abundance of caution on behalf of Veterans -- not to any medical mistake.
Machines occasionally malfunction, and that is likely what has caused the spotting. Even completely clean trays that we process are emerging with spots. We are working with vendors of these machines and considering the possibility of contracting sterile processing services in the short term while we completely renovate our Sterile Processing Department. This renovation was already planned in order to ensure that the St. Louis VA Medical Center has state-of-the-art sterile processing, and it reflects our commitment to continuously improve and provide the quality care you earned.
Some news reports have stated that the St. Louis VA Medical Center has low rankings in patient satisfaction according to VA’s own Quality and Safety Report. As you may know, VA publicly releases the most extensive and detailed quality reports of any large health care organization. This includes our ASPIRE database available online which shows you how we are doing against quality standards to which we aspire. Our standards are often well above those of other health care systems. We do this because we are accountable to you, and you can monitor our progress and improvements.
We do this even when it shows that we need improvements. While our latest report shows that our patient satisfaction scores are lower than we want, our staff have been working steadily to gain your trust and honor your service with the very best of ours. We are taking full responsibility in order to better serve Veterans. At the same time, allow me to say that the picture is not just one-sided:
- Our quality scores are on par with most major VA medical centers, and our standards within VA are generally above the quality standards for other large health care systems.
- The St. Louis VAMC also performs very well on the effectiveness data in VA’s ASPIRE report -- which shows the high standards every VA medical center is targeting in order to provide the best care anywhere.
- The prestigious Joint Commission, which evaluates hospitals across the nation, has also given the St. Louis VA Medical Center a good evaluation on the “S3” score measuring risk. St. Louis VAMC’s “S3” score is 23 for the 4th quarter of 2010. That is a full 14 points better – that is, lower risk -- than the average 37 scored by “magnet hospitals” and the hospitals that made the U.S. News Best Hospitals list.
The Joint Commission is returning for another independent review today. We fully welcome that review. We should mention that every VA medical center undergoes far more regular reviews than most other health care systems. In 2010, the St. Louis VA Medical Center hosted 36 different independent reviews -- including thorough inspections by The Joint Commission, the Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.
Thank you to those of you who have reached out to us via phone, e-mail and blog to voice your support of VA and our staff. Believe us when we tell you that we respect your service and want you to have the best possible health care. We will continue to update you on the progress we make toward returning to full service in our operating suites.
Rima Ann Nelson,
St. Louis VAMC Medical Center Director