Middle Tennessee's struggling VA medical centers may be in the early stages of a turnaround. An annual report from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows both the Nashville and Murfreesboro campuses making improvement.
Three years ago, the VA started ranking all of its hospitals on a five-star scale — and it revealed a trio of low-performing facilities in Tennessee. The medical centers in Nashville, Murfreesboro and Memphis all received one star, graded on death rates, complications and patient satisfaction.
Now, Nashville's VA hospital has made enough progress to get off the agency's "high-risk" list, its lowest category. Murfreesboro and Memphis remain in the bottom group, but they've also posted meaningful gains.
Officials are touting the improvements. Former Navy Capt. Jennifer Vedral-Baron, hired as director to oversee the turnaround at the Nashville and Murfreesboro campuses, says in a statement that the gains are a result of listening to veterans and employees.
"We have undertaken several new initiatives to create a ‘wow’ experience for our veterans and empowered staff to handle potential issues at the lowest levels," Vedral-Baron said. "Our focus is on improving the whole health of our veterans and on employee satisfaction, which is leading to positive organizational changes."
The Tennessee Valley Health System, which includes both the Nashville and Murfreesboro sites, has begun offering alternative therapies to patients dealing with chronic pain or anxiety, like tai chi. The local administration has also been trying to attract more veterans just as they're discharged from the military and most at-risk of suicide, though the marketing effort has been an ongoing challenge.
Across the VA, more than 70 percent improved overall quality in the last year.