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VA plans to review care halt

To assess local decision over inpatient services

The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to review VA’s decision to suspend inpatient care at the agency’s Fort Wayne medical center.

Inspector General George Opfer responded this week to a request from Reps. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, and Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, according to staff of Donnelly, who was elected to a U.S. Senate seat Nov. 6.

Opfer wrote that VA officials “have initiated our review” and will provide the results when it is finished.

On Nov. 16, the same day Donnelly and Stutzman issued their call for an investigation, the medical center announced plans to resume inpatient care in the first three months of 2013 if “sustainable, high-quality safe systems and processes” and “staff competencies” have been established.

A center spokeswoman, who said Oct. 23 that inpatient care had been suspended temporarily, acknowledged last week that vacancies in key positions at the Lake Avenue facility, including the chief of medicine, need to be filled.

Donnelly and Stutzman have concerns that go beyond the closing of the hospital’s intensive and acute care units, which have about 30 beds between them.

“After speaking with the VA, we are concerned that fundamental quality control structure problems exist, not just in the ICU and Acute Medical Unit, but may be present throughout the Fort Wayne VA Medical Center,” they wrote to Opfer. “We are also concerned that the VA has yet to identify the specific measures that need to be taken in order to return the facility to normal operations.”

The two lawmakers, who are members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also wrote that the inspector general’s investigation “should include a review of the overall quality of care and management at the facility.”

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, which operates the medical center, announced last Friday that Denise Deitzen has been named its director. Deitzen has been director of a VA medical center in Saginaw, Mich.

An interim leader has been in charge of the system since July after the transfer of the former director to another VA medical facility.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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