December 13, 2012

Togus earns mixed reviews in federal inspection

BY SUSAN M. COVER Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- A federal report has found the VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus fell short of standards that govern training for end-of-life care and proper storage of oxygen tanks.

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CARING: Therese Lacasse, right, Betty Dutil, center, and Irene MacNaughton inspect a room Tuesday at the new Hospice and Pallative Care ward at the Togus VA. Dutil's husband, Lacasse and MacNaughton's brother, received care at Togus while as he died.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Overall, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found the facility to be compliant in four of seven areas reviewed during an October inspection. It also gave high marks to the Hospice and Palliative Care Program for receiving the highest rating in the country on a survey given to family members after the death of a veteran at the facility.

Togus got a score of 81 percent compared to the national mean of 58 percent, the report states.

However, the report identified a need for improvement in three areas:

* Ensure that all nonhospice and palliative care staff receive end-of-life training.

* Ensure that oxygen tanks are stored safely and that preventive maintenance is performed on equipment used in physical therapy clinics.

* Ensure that electronic health record quality reviews are analyzed at least quarterly.

Ryan Lilly, center director at Togus, said he already has set deadlines to achieve compliance with those items identified in the report.

"It's an exhaustive, weeklong review," he said Thursday. "There weren't any major things that impact patient safety. It's a fresh set of eyes, a different perspective."

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, a ranking member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, released a statement Thursday along with the report saying he was frustrated that some of the recommendations are in the same categories of those made in 2011.

"It's critical that Togus take concrete steps to implement these recommendations now, and I look forward to following up with them to hear about their progress," Michaud said.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

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