Bedford VA Director Criticizes ‘distorted Picture’ of Editorial
By Joan Clifford
Special to The Sun
A recent editorial in this newspaper contains a number of inaccuracies and out-of-context information about Department of Veterans Affairs care in Bedford and across the nation.
At the VA, we welcome criticism from the media. But when that criticism is based on false assumptions and partial information, veterans and taxpayers are left with a distorted picture of the department’s true performance.
That’s why we thank The Sun for allowing us to present a more balanced and attentive view of the care and benefits we provide. Consider the facts.
The editorial states that the VA provides substandard health care. This is contrary to a broad range of evidence. In fact, according to the independent RAND Corporation, veterans receive the same or better care at VA medical facilities as patients at non-VA hospitals.
The editorial implies the Bedford VA Medical Center overall has a rating of one star and is among the lowest-rated VA facilities in the nation. This is not true.
According to the latest VA quality ratings, Bedford VA ranks among the top VA facilities in the country on a broad range of measures, including access to primary and mental health care, preventing hospitalization for common health conditions and opioid prescription rates.
Access to care at Bedford VAMC is among the best in the country -- much better than in the private sector. And in a recent patient satisfaction survey, Bedford’s health care consistently ranks as the best in New England.
Bedford VAMC also operates a separate community living center, (CLC) or nursing home. While the Bedford VA nursing home has a one-star rating, this reflects the exceptionally difficult case-mix the facility serves and the fact that -- unlike private sector nursing homes, which admit patients selectively -- VA nursing homes will not refuse service to any eligible Veteran, no matter how challenging the Veteran’s conditions are to treat. In other words, the Bedford CLC houses residents with more complex medical needs that private sector facilities will not accept. This makes comparisons to other facilities, both VA and non-VA, difficult.
For example, Bedford CLC is the only VA facility in its region to offer a Geriatric Psychiatry Unit (GPU). The GPU admits veterans suffering from difficult behavioral problems from throughout New England and returns them to their optimal level of care.
VA always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don’t meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable and work hard to improve. In this case, the Bedford VA nursing home has implemented Tiger Teams aggressively to address a number of issues, and has seen consistent improvements in its performance on SAIL quality indicators over the past six months.
But if The Sun truly wants the Bedford VAMC to succeed as it claims, it should place more of a focus on reporting the facts fairly and accurately. Not doing so is a disservice to the thousands of Veterans who depend upon the Bedford VAMC and the dedicated employees who are charged with serving them.