AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After years of keeping them secret, the Department of Veterans Affairs has publicly, but quietly, released its ratings of VA hospitals.
The numbers do not put Maine’s VA hospital at Togus in a good light. Despite finding Togus has made large improvements over the previous rating, it managed only a 2 rating out of 5. The rating was the lowest for any veteran hospital in New England.
“I would be concerned to hear that number was so low”, said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) Maine.
Rep. Pingree wants to know where Togus is failing. She plans to ask those questions when she returns to Washington.
The ratings are based on numerous factors, everything from infection rates to wait times.
Togus Director Ryan Lilly says the size and rural nature of Maine work against Togus in the ratings. Hospital stays are longer here and mental health services are tough to administer due to a lack of psychologists. Two criteria the hospital did poorly in.
“Nobody ever wants to be 2-star in anything, certainly we’re not happy with being 2-star and very committed to improving that”, Lilly said.
One thing that is not weighed heavily is patient satisfaction and that bothers Lilly.
“We would encourage you and anyone else to talk to the patients themselves and ask what their experience of care was”, he said.
We took him up on that.
“I use Togus, I have a primary care provider there , so not only do I advocate but I use it personally and I have seen nothing but improvements in the past 2-years”, said Adria Horn.
Horn is a veteran of the Iraq war. She also runs the Bureau of Veteran Services for Maine. She says rating Togus, the oldest veteran hospital in the nation, the same way as new, modern facilities isn’t fair.
Navy veteran David Patch is also puzzled by the rating. He’s been a patient and now volunteers at Togus every week helping patients get the services they need.
“You jump to the conclusion that 2 is a pretty bad rating and my experience with the veterans up at Togus has been exceptionally positive”, Patch said.
While congresswoman Pingree wants to know more about the rating, she also wants to know why the VA kept the rating secret for so long.
“Frankly the customer should be able to follow this along and see if the care is improving if it’s going down in places and there should be transparency”, she said.
Veterans always have the opportunity to voice concerns about Togus and other VA matters during meetings of the Veterans Coordinating Committee. the committee meets next on January 9 at the Maine Veterans Home in Augusta.