Acting director working to improve Gulf Coast VA - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Acting director working to improve Gulf Coast VA

There are some 241,000 vets eligible for care in the three-state area. About one-third of those are currently enrolled in the system. (Photo source: WLOX) There are some 241,000 vets eligible for care in the three-state area. About one-third of those are currently enrolled in the system. (Photo source: WLOX)
The acting director says outside teams have been called on and visited the Gulf Coast system to help make assessments and recommend ways to improve. (Photo source: WLOX) The acting director says outside teams have been called on and visited the Gulf Coast system to help make assessments and recommend ways to improve. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

We're striving to do better. That's the message Wednesday from the acting director of the Gulf Coast VA Health Care System in Biloxi.

The system is trying to improve on its recent "one-star" rating, so the acting director held a quality of care discussion and news conference to address the issue.

"We struggle and strive every day to make sure that we're meeting our veteran’s needs. And we take every individual's needs and concerns seriously," said Dr. Christopher Saslo.

The acting director of the Gulf Coast VA Health Care System says his team is committed to improving on that "one-star" rating. That quality score represents a compilation of 30 different areas that are measured each quarter.

"Things such as access, such as care, such as perception, satisfaction, as well as many other components that are far too numerous to mention," said the acting director.

One part of the action plan to improve performance involves hiring more staff at the VA.

"Just to give a few examples: We've hired 48 staff so far in behavioral health in the last six months and 37 in our primary care or our outpatient areas. And we continue to hire," said Dr. Saslo.

Though he preferred not to go on camera, WLOX News Now spoke with one VA patient who told us the medical care he's received at the VA has been exceptional. However, the problem he said is the wait time for doctor's appointments. In his experience, it's not unusual to wait four to six weeks to get an appointment.

"Sometimes our veterans perceive their need to be seen by only a physician or a nurse practitioner, as opposed to that care can be delivered or taken care of by a registered nurse or an LPN," said Dr. Saslo.

He says of all the metrics and data and quality care components, it all boils down to patient trust.

"We need to make sure that our veterans in the community who know they have a choice, trust the VA Gulf Coast to be able to continue their care here."

"And I really, really do appreciate you taking the opportunity to give us a chance and help continue to move us forward."

The acting director says another area of tremendous improvement is with nursing turnover rates. The turnover for RN's at the VA had been 14 percent, but that's been reduced to five percent thanks to better recruitment and an increase in nursing salaries.

There are some 241,000 vets eligible for care in the three-state area. About one-third of those are currently enrolled in the system.

The acting director says outside teams have been called on and visited the Gulf Coast system to help make assessments and recommend ways to improve. 

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