Dingell, Walberg Introduce Legislation to Enhance Transparency at VA Hospitals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Tim Walberg (MI-07) today reintroduced the VA Transparency Enhancement Act, which would require VA hospitals to improve reporting of infection rates, surgical cancellations, and other issues impacting quality of care. Public and private hospitals are required to report a variety of quality measures to the National Healthcare Safety Network, including surgical infections. The VA Transparency Enhancement Act will bring VA reporting requirements more in line with other hospitals, and require them to report on surgical cancellations and the impact on patients for the first time.
“Veterans deserve to have faith in the care they receive at our nation’s VA medical centers,” said Dingell. “This is standard operating procedure for nearly every other hospital in the country, and the VA shouldn’t be exempt. Improving transparency means that veterans can make informed decisions about the centers where they are seeking treatment, and ensure that hospitals are meeting the quality standards we owe our veterans. Ensuring the men and women who serve our country have timely, quality healthcare is a critical responsibility of the Congress, and this is one more important step to ensuring we address barriers to care.”
“To keep our promises to America’s veterans, we need to increase transparency at VA hospitals so patients and the public know when quality of care standards are not being met,” said Walberg. “The sooner we know about problem areas, the sooner we can work together to solve them. Our veterans must come first, and this bipartisan bill will help ensure our nation’s heroes receive the highest quality care in a timely fashion.”
The VA Transparency Enhancement Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to report quarterly to Congress on the number of patients who contracted an infection as a result of a surgery and the number of surgeries cancelled or transferred by the VA. While the VA currently provides completed and pending appointment data from local VA medical facilities to the public monthly, the VA does not publically release data on rates of infection or cancelled or transferred surgeries.
Dingell and Walberg first introduced the legislation in 2016 after an ongoing contamination issue at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System led to surgeries for veterans being intermittently canceled or moved to different hospitals. In meeting with VA leadership on the issue, the Representatives learned that VA hospitals are not required to report on surgical infection and cancellation rates, and that other reporting requirements can be improved as well.
The need for increased transparency was underscored again in late 2016, when press reports revealed that the Detroit VA Medical Center had become a one-star facility based on an internal quality-of-care rating system used by the VA. Dingell and Walberg sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald seeking answers about steps being taken to improve performance and quality of care and questioning why the information was not available to the public. The VA has since posted the ratings on its website, allowing the public to see for the first time how their local VA hospitals have performed over time.