KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA Plans To Limit Surgeries At Some Of Its Facilities

The Department of Veterans Affairs will limit the kinds of surgeries at some hospitals after a review of surgical deaths at a hospital in southern Illinois, The Associated Press reports. "Under a new system, the VA has given each hospital a 'surgical complexity' level. Because of that, hospitals in at least five states - Louisiana, West Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois and Washington state - will now only perform less-complicated surgeries. The VA will pick up the tab for patients who have surgeries performed elsewhere" (Hefling, 5/6).

Army Times: "VA officials are imposing a new grading system on its 112 in-patient treatment facilities that will rank their abilities to do complex, intermediate or standard procedures" and that the move will force some patients to travel farther for surgery. "Grading for medical centers takes into consideration medical staffing, both for the operating room staff and surgical consultants who are available, plus equipment and diagnostic capabilities." The VA does about 357,000 surgeries a year, and of the 112 in-patient surgical facilities, 66 of which have been approved for complex procedures, Army Times reports. Thirty-three have been approved for intermediate procedures.

"The initiative is VA's response to criticism of problems with surgical care at the medical center in Marion, Ill. The issues at that hospital, since resolved, involved physician credentialing, standards of care, peer review and quality management. A review ordered in September 2007 found problems at other VA medical centers as well" (Maze, 5/6).

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