An IG report says that VA medical facilities now are better supplied with both equipment and staff than at the time of an earlier report in late March, although some shortages still exist.
In an audit focusing on 70 of the VA’s 1,200 hospitals and other treatment facilities, all but three reported they now have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment; in contrast, in the earlier report 33 of 54 facility leaders interviewed stated that they did not have adequate supplies or equipment or both including some specific items of PPE.
It also said that seven of the 70 now report shortages of clinical personnel including emergency department nurses, intensive care unit nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, social workers, pharmacy staff, and others; 17 reported shortages in nonclinical staff including housekeeping and police.
Numerous prior reports have identified shortages in that range of occupations as a long-running problem at the VA, and the prior report found 10 of 54 facilities reporting inadequate staffing specifically of nurses and licensed practitioners while 15 reported shortages of police and 19 in housekeeping, with several declining to respond.
A further complication was “increased absenteeism due to variables outside the facility, such as lack of childcare and transportation.” At the outset of the pandemic the VA had predicted a rate as high as 40 percent; the IG did not report an actual result, however.
It said that many facilities were able to carry out a surge in hiring, and they meanwhile used strategies including “nontraditional shifts, overtime, and redeployment of staff from areas with reduced activity” plus use of contractors.