Current Events

Veterans health care news

As I do every year on Memorial Day, I like to review recent news articles surrounding health care for veterans.

Corruption: On the negative side, we have news of a former VA employee stealing HIV medication.

A former pharmacy procurement technician was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for stealing prescription HIV medications from the pharmacy of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in East Orange, New Jersey… From October 2015 through November 2019, Hoffman was a procurement officer at the VAMC, who used her authority to order medication for the outpatient pharmacy, including ordering large quantities of HIV medication. Hoffman admitted that she stole HIV prescription medications from the VAMC pharmacy and sold it to her conspirator, Wagner Checonolasco, 35, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, in exchange for cash.

VA Medical Center infrastructure: Also, the VA is planning to restructure its real estate locations as part of their asset and infrastructure review (AIR) recommendations. As reported at the Federal News Network:

The agency, under this plan, is looking to close approximately three dozen VA medical centers (VAMCs), but would replace about half of them with new construction. The VA would permanently close the other half, and would shift veteran care to local VA inpatient and outpatient facilities.

However, these changes will take years to be implemented

[VA Secretary Denis McDonough]…said in March that the changes envisioned in the AIR Commission recommendations, even if the process moves forward as planned, are still “decades away” from being implemented.

Staffing: On the positive side, the VA has hired a large number of new worker in the past year. Despite that, the VA does still face some workforce shortages.

Gina Grosso, VA’s assistant secretary for human resource administration operations, security and preparedness, told the committee the VA has hired 59,000 employees since the start of the fiscal year. The agency has a workforce of about 400,000 employees, and about 90% of employees work in health care. Jessica Bonjorni, the chief of human capital management at the Veterans Health Administration, said VHA has about 31,000 candidates in its hiring pipeline right now.

Electronic health records. VA is rolling out a new and improved EHR system, but the implementation is not going off smoothly. Earlier this month, the Federal News Network reported:

The VA on April 30 launched its new Cerner EHR at its Central Ohio Health Care System in Columbus, Ohio. The new system replaces software that’s more than 30 years old, and will track and store health information on VA patients…
[VA Secretary Denis] McDonough said the new EHR from Cerner has experienced five shutdowns since March 3, the first of which was so “egregious,” that the company’s chief executive officer issued a signed apology. Two of those outages happened last week.

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