Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Julia Brownley led her first subcommittee hearing as the Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where she called for the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) to improve the services they offer to veterans.

Specifically, the Health Subcommittee’s oversight hearing focused on the VHA’s productivity standards.  On December 27, 2012, the VA Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued an audit of physician staffing levels for specialty care services, such as cardiology, endocrinology, surgery, psychiatry and others. The IG found that the VA does not have an effective staffing methodology to ensure appropriate staffing levels for specialty care. The Subcommittee examined the reasons behind the VA’s inability to implement the IG’s recommendations and the subsequent impact on patient care, particularly with regard to access and quality.

“Since the 1980s there have been several reports that have recommended the implementation of measures to assess provider productivity and staffing. I understand that the wide range of specialties VHA offers varies in complexity, and that it is often difficult to quantify the work that specialists provide day in and day out. But it is long past time to get this right. VHA must establish a staffing methodology to help evaluate productivity, identify best practices within specialties, and develop staffing plans in order to properly manage resources.”

VHA has agreed to implement the IG’s following recommendations:

  • Approve plan by end of FY 2013 so all specialty care services have productivity standards within 3 years;
  • Establish productivity standards for at least five specialty care services by the end of FY 2013 and ensure that personnel compare physician workload against these standards; and
  • Provide medical facility directors with more specific guidance on how to develop staffing plans and ensure medical facility management review them at least annually.

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