Legion: Carefully examine ICU situation in Fort Wayne

The American Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force has completed its report for a May follow-up site visit to the Fort Wayne branch of the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System. Among its recommendations is that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) carefully consider the permanent closing the Fort Wayne inpatient intensive care unit (ICU) services – a move being considered by the VAMC, its Veteran Integrated Service Network and the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C.

The most recent to visit to Fort Wayne came on the heels of a December SWS trip that followed shortly after the Fort Wayne medical center had suspended all inpatient services. Following the December visit, the SWS Task Force made a list of recommendations, all of which were implemented. Those included sending a letter to all facility enrollees explaining the reason for the pause and steps to resumption of services, creating a hotline to answer questions and working with VA Central Office to expedite hiring of critical leadership and staff positions.

During the May visit, SWS Task Force Chairman Ralph Bozella and Legion staff encountered a VA staff that had undergone a "culture change," according to Bozella. Morale was improved, and staff was given a sense of ownership in the facility and its path toward improvement. The SWS report praised facility leadership for the changes.

However, the resumption of inpatient ICU services remains up in the air, pending VA review. The SWS report urges VA to "take into account the staffing levels, catchment area analysis of major diseases and treatments provided, average daily census from FY 2008 to FY 2013 in developing their decision to resume ICU services". Furthermore, if a decision to close inpatient ICU is made, it is important that VA be transparent and communicate their rationale on why services were not reopened as these services were provided by the facility in the past.

To view the complete SWS report from the May Fort Wayne visit, click here.