Atlanta VA report notes progress, room for improvement


A new federal report says major progress has been made at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, but there are still problems.
The report was sparked by an April 2013 Channel 2 Action News investigation into federal reports linking three mental health patient deaths to mismanagement. 
The 22-page report has a lot of good news, but even VA leaders admit there is still a lot more work to do to make things right at the hospital.
“It is better than I had thought it might have been,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said.
The inspector general’s re-audit, ordered by Isakson, shows the gaps in patient monitoring that led to one of the veteran’s deaths, an overdose inside the hospital, have been closed.
“I think the progress demonstrates that director Wiggins is on top of it and they’re making the right changes with the agency,” Isakson said.
While inspectors noted considerable improvement, the hospital still faces challenges tracking mental health patients referred to outside providers. That’s where the two other vets listed in the first set of reports were receiving care when they committed suicide.
“I’m going to personally follow up to make sure those things happen,” Isakson said.
The report’s release comes shortly after Rob Nabors, the president’s point man on the investigation into a scandal involving excessive wait times at VA facilities nationwide, showed up at the Atlanta VA for high-level closed-door meetings with hospital leaders.
Nabors described his visit as “very interesting.”
“I think it was important that he come here, not just to see the problems that existed, but see what’s done to correct those problems,” Isakson said.
In the new report, the inspectors also made three recommendations to improve tracking the progress of patients referred to outside providers even further. VA leaders said they hope to make all the necessary changes by the end of September.