New director says ill-serving VA at 'turning point' in state
The new director of the Oklahoma City Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System told the Southwest Oklahoma Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) on Wednesday that he wants to put veterans at the center of everything.
Wade Vlosich was upfront in admitting that the Oklahoma VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City had some of the lowest customer satisfaction in the VA healthcare system when he arrived here last June.
"We were right next to Phoenix" as a one-star facility. It's now up to three stars, and Vlosich said he hopes to be a five-star facility in the next two or three years.
Meanwhile, he's embarked on a wide-ranging plan for improvement that will bring good news to Lawton, Altus, Clinton and Ardmore in the near term.
"We are at a big turning-point in the VA," Vlosich said. "My job is to make sure that we serve those who served our country, and if we're not doing it the best we can, then we need to improve upon that."
"Since I arrived last June we've had a complete turnover of senior leaders and new service chiefs.
For instance, mental health. We've had a new psychiatric director, a new chief of medicine, we're recruiting for a new chief of research. Down the line.
"We had a lot of things that were not done properly at the Oklahoma City VA, and I will be the first one to admit that there were a lot of issues. When they say that you can't get rid of somebody in the VA, you can. And so we have a new chief of staff, a new chief nurse, a new assistant director. We're recruiting for an associate director right now Ö We've hired a new chief of surgical services.
"There's a lot of positions we're recruiting for right now because we need people who are serving in our organization who want to put veterans first. And if they're not going to put veterans first, then they're not going to be working for me," Vlosich said.
"We have a lot of ongoing investigations with the Office of the Inspector General and a corporation called Joint Commission. Right now they're looking at a variety of the operations that have occurred at Oklahoma City and here around the entire area that we service. And we found some stuff that was highly inappropriate. Once those reviews are done, they will be released from the Office of the Inspector General and I expect a lot of media attention to those. To be frank, we've had people who have committed fraud, and they need to be punished for that Ö It's unfortunate that there are people who put themselves above veterans, above others, but they don't work here any more and we're taking appropriate action against that," Vlosich said.
Clients may notice some providers leaving, as the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System has actually been firing doctors and nurses, he acknowledged.
"We only want high-quality people working for the VA. And so that's the right thing to do," Vlosich said.
"At the Lawton (VA) Clinic in particular, we're hiring more physicians. We've got about three new ones coming on board. We've had some staff turnover. But we're also going to be expanding," the speaker said.
As part of a campaign to improve access to healthcare, VA is building an addition to house audiology, a prosthetics department and a tele-optometry system.
"We have been on the forefront of some of the research with eye services. And so we have acquired and it's now started in Oklahoma City where you can go in now and there's a robot that can do your eye exam for you," Vlosich explained.