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VA hospitals across the United States have a long-standing history of providing care and services to the country’s veterans and their families. Currently, the US Department for Veterans Affairs, which is the umbrella body that undertakes strategic planning for all VA facilities, maintains an integrated healthcare system that aims to provide the highest quality of services to clients through its 153 hospitals and 773 community-based out-patient clinics (CBOC) across the U.S (U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs, 2011, p. 4). However, the current issues in the healthcare sector and operating environment including the increasing veteran population and the challenging external environment call for significant changes to address the current challenges and seek opportunities for continuous improvement. In this essay, the strategic planning for VA hospitals as outlined by the US Department for Veterans Affairs is assessed besides reviewing the major challenges and opportunities for improvement as highlighted by the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
Planning for VA hospitals
To achieve different strategic goals and objectives through its facilities, the Department draws a long-term plan that covers about five years. Currently, the Department works within the FY 2011-2015 strategic plan, which includes three guiding principles, four strategic goals, three integrated objectives, 14 integrated strategies, and 16 major initiatives. Here, the FY 2011-2015 strategic plan notes that the Department’s guiding principles include people-centric, results-driven, and forward-looking. Taken together, the principles provide the means through which VA medical facilities direct available resources to Veterans and their families while taking note that the services offered will be measured relative to positive accomplishments rather than empty promises. Besides, the principles guide the VA facilities to plan for available resources effectively while seeking alternative sources to satisfy the ever-increasing Veteran populations (U.S. Department for Veteran Affairs, 2011, pp. 19-21).
Subsequently, the Department’s strategic goals and priorities for 2011-2015 include improving quality and accessibility of services, increasing client satisfaction, raising readiness to serve and protect clients at any time, and improving the management and service systems to achieve customer satisfaction and improved performance. Conversely, to achieve the goals, the Department focuses on harnessing talent and investing in human capital relative to needs, experience, and expectations of the clients as outlined in the Department’s integrated objectives. Finally, the strategic goals and objectives culminate into various strategic initiatives including eliminating veteran homelessness, improving veteran mental health, transforming human capital management, and ensuring healthcare efficiency among others (U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs, 2011, pp. 21-25). Overall, the FY 2011-2015 strategic plan is a clear indication that the Department seeks to maintain its status as one of the best integrated healthcare provider in the U.S.
Major challenges facing VA hospitals
According to the OIG report 2010, which outlines the performance and operations of VA hospitals relative to strategic plans, performance and accountability plans, and federal criminal laws safeguarding Veterans Affairs, most VA facilities face major management challenges, which threaten to overshadow accomplishments made over the years. First, the report notes that the Veterans Health Administration faces major issues regarding the quality of care services and mental health needs of Veterans due to the increasing numbers of clients. It then follows that the effectiveness of delivering clinical care services, planning, resource allocation, and budgeting is compromised in most VA Medical Centers (VAMCs). In response to this challenge, most VA facilities under directive from the VA Department have initiated risk-management programs to manage and lower the health risks affecting Veterans. Additionally, most VA hospitals have expanded their clinical capacities to improve service delivery and overall performance (FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report, 2010, p. 11-144).
Secondly, besides medical services, Veterans rely on VA facilities for medical examination results to enable them to secure compensation and pension (C&P) due to disabilities related to military service. However, the OIG report 2010 notes that most VA facilities do not offer timely C&P examination services. Furthermore, limited resources are committed towards providing C&P examination services and nursing home care. Accordingly, the Department has launched the VETSNET operational link, which allows field staff to monitor the C&P examinations process and allocate available resources relative to workloads. Conversely, the Department has also revised its regulations to allow different states to claim additional resources/payments to be channeled to providing skilled nursing care services relative to Veteran needs. Finally, most VA facilities face major challenges regarding effective management of new and potentially harmful health problems related to OEF/OIF such as post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), TBI, and substance abuse, which have not yet been addressed adequately (FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report, 2010, p. 11-146).
Planning, budgeting, and resource allocation form an integral part of the management systems in any organization. In the foregoing discussions, the essay highlights major strategies and initiatives being undertaken by the U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs relative to available resources and client needs. Further, the essay has discussed the major management challenges facing most VA facilities including reduced effectiveness in care delivery, untimely service delivery, and poor management of potentially harmful health problems such as PTSD. As a result, besides allocating available resources to satisfy client needs, the VA facilities should embark on prioritizing client needs in such a way that those services that need urgent intervention are addressed first. Overall, the FY 2011-2015 strategic plan is perfect considering the current issues facing the Veterans Affairs medical facilities.
FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report. (2010). Major management challenges identified by the OIG. Web.
U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs. Strategic plan refresh, FY 2011-2015. Office of the Secretary. Web.