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Memphis VA Medical Center vows changes after VA Acting Secretary's visit

Memphis VA Medical Center vows changes after VA Acting Secretary's visit
Published: Jun. 27, 2018 at 9:12 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2018 at 5:29 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Veteran Affairs Acting Secretary Peter O'Rourke's tour of Memphis's VA Medical Center comes eight days after an inspector general's report on the hospital found serious breakdowns in communication, training, and consultations resulting in patient deaths and illness.

Between October 2015 and September 2017, "Sixteen surgical inpatients with serious treatable conditions died while receiving care at the facility."

And more than 50 patients developed other illnesses while in the care of the Memphis VA or sustained injuries after surgeries.

"The 13 issues brought up in the IG report are very important things for us to look at. They are opportunities for us to make the better experience here even better," O'Rourke said.

The VA's new medical director, David Dunning, said the inspection of the hospital came in January and caught them mid-stride with some changes already implemented.

"It's not just the physical changes that you see in the organization, it's actually as you walk down the hall, you can feel the difference in the Memphis VA from what it was just a year ago," Dunning said.

Changes include the $16 million purchase of new equipment, more oversight of daily operations, and additional training for staff.

"Yes, we do have an occasional where we do not make the mark, but when we don't make the mark, we learned a lesson, we institute the lesson, and we try to get better each and every time," Dunning said.

Dunning said Wednesday that while the hospital is working to boost its current one-star, out of five, rating, the hospital's main focus right now is improvement to veteran care.

After O'Rourke toured the Memphis VA, he stopped by Shelby County Criminal Justice Center at 201 Poplar.

Judge Bill Anderson Jr. asked O'Rourke to tour the courtroom. He said he hoped the visit would help O'Rourke see the need for an increase in the focus on female veterans and to see how current veterans court programs are succeeding.

"Veterans treatment courts across the country work. They take people out of the jail system which is what they are designed to do. They rehabilitate them and get them back to where they were before they came in," Anderson said.

Since 2012, more than 350 veterans who faced criminal charges have been through the program, giving them a second lease on life. The program provides treatment and other services for veterans who may struggle with substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

"We are just taking a segment of people that I think deserve more attention, who have earned more attention for their service to our country," Anderson said. "They earned what they deserve, what they fought for. They are in the right to live the good life in the United States. To be happy. "

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