Dr. George Van Buskirk, medical chief of staff for Bay Pines VA Medical Center, says the hospital has a "culture of improvement." Yet the hospital refuses to release a report citing 40 areas where that improvement is needed. This "trust us" approach won't cut it. As one of the busiest veterans hospitals in the nation, Bay Pines has an obligation to come clean on where it has fallen short.
Van Buskirk contends that the problems found by inspectors from the Joint Commission, a group that accredits most of the nation's hospitals, are minor and do not impact patient safety. Then why not make the report public? By refusing to release the list of 40 violations of standards found by the inspectors, the hospital looks like it is hiding something.
This is a taxpayer-supported institution charged with treating the nation's veterans, including 95,000 last year. Bay Pines must correct the problems within two months or potentially lose its accreditation, putting the public's investment on the line.
Among the violations listed are expired medications, blocked exits and a failure to conduct suicide-risk assessments of all patients. Van Buskirk said the inspectors identified "tweaks" to an already good process. But some of these appear to potentially impact the safety of patients, and it's hard to tell the difference between tweaks and serious concerns without seeing the details in the report.
Patients and taxpayers are entitled to know precisely where Bay Pines needs to improve so they can make their own judgment about the quality of the hospital's service. There is no excuse for the secrecy.