Ratings show Tomah VA improvements

Recent ratings are showing improvements at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The Tomah V-A Medical Center is trying to bounce back after a number of setbacks over the past few years. Most recently, one of its dentists potentially put hundreds of veterans at risk by using improper cleaning procedures.

VA leaders said making improvements has been a long journey, and over the years, ratings for the Tomah VA have taken a hit.

“We had some bad scores related to loss of staff during some tragic times,” said Victoria Brahm, Tomah VA Medical Center director.

Quarterly ratings compare the 129 VA facilities around the country in 28 different areas.The 2016 fourth quarterly SAIL scores, or Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning, use a composite of ratings dating back about a year.

And now, Brahm said things are looking up, especially this year’s improvement in employee satisfaction.

“Coming from where we did, if not the bottom the second to the bottom, on staff satisfaction, and places to work, the leap that we took, a 10 percent leap, is amazing,” she said.

VA leaders credit the score with engagement with staff and veterans, setting clear values within the medical center, and creating a safe environment where employees can speak up if something’s not right.

“There’s a direct health care correlation as it relates to employee engagement and patient satisfaction,” public affairs officer Matthew Gowan said.

In the beginning of the year, the Tomah VA ranked 77 out of 129 VA facilities. Now it’s moved up to 41.

But they still have a three out of five star ranking as a VA facility, which Gowan said means there’s more work to do.

“The (next) step is to get to four-star ranking, not so we can stand up and cheer and say, ‘Yay, we’re four stars!’ but because we’re doing the right things for veterans,” he said.

The SAIL ratings showed the registered nurse turnover rate is one area that needs improvement.

“We are incrementally coming down, but your RN workforce is the largest workforce in the hospital, and we have to find ways to compete and retain RNs here at the Tomah VA,” Brahm said.

However, Brahm said if employees aren’t on board with the medical center’s new values, then they should hit the road.

“If employees choose not to get on the bus and go the direction we choose to go, we need to make a stop and let them get off, and that’s the way it goes, because we are a new Tomah,” she said.

The SAIL ratings ranked VA facilities in a number of other areas such as inpatient satisfaction, outpatient care, in-hospital complications, readmission rate and mortality.

These ratings only compare VAs with other VAs, not hospitals in the private sector.