Providence VA Director confident in hospital’s service

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence is confident the hospital offers some of the best health care in the region, amid concerns about veterans’ healthcare facilities across the country following an investigation into the VA Hospital in Phoenix.

Susan MacKenzie took over as director seven months ago, and told Target 12 her analysis of the facility began then.

”I haven’t heard a lot of criticism,” she said. “I’ve heard more compliments than criticism about the Providence VA.”

She said she could not comment on the controversy surrounding the Phoenix VA, where an investigation is underway into claims employees at the facility purportedly used a secret list to hide long delays in service. On Friday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned, about five weeks after the claims were made public. The firestorm prompted an investigation by the VA Auditor General into 42 VA hospitals.

MacKenzie said to her knowledge Providence is not on that list, although a VA team did come to the medical center last month and interviewed 11 employees about the time it takes for local veterans to make appointments. She said the hard copy of those findings is not available, but that staff members were told there were no problems during an exit interview.

According to statistics provided to Target 12, the Providence VA treated more than 34,000 patients last fiscal year in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.

Target 12 has been contacted through emails and phone calls from several local veterans who are not satisfied with their medical care and wait times for appointments at the Providence VA. But according to a internal V A survey, about 85 percent of the veterans who use the Providence V A are satisfied.

“I had one veteran who came in and he had tears in his eyes and he said you saved my life,” MacKenzie said.

When we asked about the veterans who have contacted Target 12 as well as the 15 percent who were not necessarily satisfied with service at the Providence VA, MacKenzie pointed out not all of the other 15 percent was “unsatisfied”, and she said this.

“We look at our survey data to see if we can figure out what are the issues that can be fixed. But individually, one on one with patients is the way to make sure we’re giving them the care they have earned.”

She tells us while the goal is to improve the Providence VA, in her opinion the service is already very good.

“The VA is the best hospital,” she said.

MacKenzie stopped short of that statement when we asked if she was saying the Providence VA is the best hospital in Rhode Island.

“I am saying we deliver the best care to veterans in Rhode Island,” she said. “And in certain metrics about the care we give, we do very well.”

She also emphasized that her staff wants to here from veterans who believe they have not received quality service at the Providence VA Medical Center.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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