Review: Workload, staffing had impact at Wasilla VA clinic

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, July 7, 2015 10:55pm
  • News

JUNEAU — High workloads and inadequate staffing had a negative effect on access to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Wasilla, an inspector general’s review found.

It found that eight of 40 patients assigned to the clinic who died between July 2013 and July 2014 received poor access to care. For six of those eight patients, the delay resulted in poor quality care, the review found. While the inspector general identified 40 patients assigned to the clinic who died during that span, it excluded one from further review in part because there was no documentation that patient had requested to be seen at the clinic.

The review, requested by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was released Tuesday. It cited staff morale as an area of concern that, if not addressed, could affect access to care and patient safety.

It recommended, among other things, that the VA implement plans to ensure continuity of care for patients during situations including understaffing, as required by policy; have a primary care provider permanently on staff; and assess culture, morale and leadership issues identified in the report and take any appropriate action.

In a response dated April 10 attached to the report, the director of the Alaska VA Healthcare System, Susan Yeager, said she agrees with the recommendations and that the Alaska VA has taken or was in the process of taking steps to resolve the issues.

The Alaska VA has said the recruitment of doctors and nurses is one of the biggest challenges it faces. Yeager, in her written comments, noted “extreme difficulty” in attracting and keeping qualified candidates in “remote care sites” in Wasilla, Fairbanks, Kenai and Juneau and a proposal to sweeten incentives that already include relocation benefits. Wasilla is about 45 miles from Anchorage.

The inspector general report acknowledged a “chronic shortage” of doctors in Alaska and efforts taken by the VA to allow veterans unable to receive timely appointments to access care at non-VA facilities. The Wasilla clinic opened in 2009.

Between June 2013 and February 2015, 509 new VA patients who wanted to begin care at the Wasilla clinic but couldn’t because of a health care provider shortage and 535 established patients who couldn’t get timely appointments received care at the Southcentral Foundation, the report stated. Additionally, between August 2013 and February 2015, about 150 new or established patients who couldn’t get timely appointments received care at other community health centers.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the report scathing and a “confirmation of the worst suspicions” — that some veterans with serious health conditions were allowed to fall through the cracks “in a way that denied them possibly life-saving access to care.”

“I think Alaska VA needs to look really, really carefully and critically as to how they are providing care for our veterans, because what has been happening is simply not acceptable,” she said in a phone interview.

More in News

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Leaves fall at the Kenai Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Senior Center makes plans for $715,000 endowment

The money comes from the Tamara Diane Cone Testamentary Trust

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
On Thursday morning at what police described as an active crime scene, JPD Officer Austin Thomas and Officer Taylor Davis walk the fielded area which was blocked off by crime scene tape. Multiple tents and a police vehicle sat in the field where the tape surrounded, another police vehicle sat in a dirt parking area.
No arrests made as Juneau death investigation continues

Shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday that a woman’s body was found

Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

About 21,000 people living along a 1,000-mile stretch of Alaska’s western coast were affected by the storm

Most Read