MISSOULA — In a recent review, the Department of Veterans Affairs Montana Health Care System ranked higher in patient satisfaction and call responsiveness but came in near the bottom for patient wait times, employee satisfaction and nurse turnover.
In a March review by the VA inspector general, VA Montana scored 51st in patient satisfaction out of 128 facilities and came in 69th on call responsiveness.
However, the report ranked the Montana VA in the bottom eight in wait times for specialty care, primary care and mental health treatment. The system was ranked in the bottom three in employee satisfaction and in the bottom 10 for its high rate of turnover among registered nurses.
VA Montana Congressional liaison Gail Wilkerson said the system is taking steps to address the deficiencies but is awaiting results from a national audit to address wait times.
She said RNs received a salary increase in January that brings salaries in line with the state’s private sector and that efforts have been made to recruit and retain RNs.
Wilkerson said the state system has offered employees the opportunity to give recommendations regarding their work environment through monthly forums and a newly-formed committee to examine workplace satisfaction.
The 31-page report also made recommendations in five of seven VA activities, including quality management, medication management and coordination of care.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and a member of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called the report a valuable tool on which to make improvements.
VA Montana employs 908 people and maintains a $222 million medical care budget with the main hospital at Fort Harrison near Helena and 12 outpatient clinics around the state. The system saw 30,270 unique visitors during the last fiscal year with 193,870 outpatient visits.
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