The Washington Times: VA Montana Health Care System rating falls to 1 star

HELENA, Mont. (AP) – An internal evaluation of the VA Montana Health Care System saw its performance rating downgraded to one star for July, August and September, compared with two stars for the same period in 2015, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines announced Wednesday.

Public affairs officer Mike Garcia said that officials are reviewing the report and looking for areas of improvement, but he notes the star ratings are not equivalent to those one might find for a hotel or restaurant. The nation’s VA hospitals are rated on a bell curve, and there will always be a dozen five-star facilities and 12 or 13 one-star facilities, he said.

Veterans should remain confident that they are receiving high quality health care in Montana from the VA, and that the system is always evaluating its performance and working to improve, Garcia said.

The hospital’s patient satisfaction scores continue to improve from 102nd out of 129 facilities in October, November and December of 2015 to 40th in the most recent report, he noted.

VA Montana Health Care System’s score for continuity of mental health has been low for the past six quarters, Garcia said. But he added that’s because up to 20 percent of veterans are receiving mental health services outside the VA system so they can be seen more quickly or closer to home.

“Just because we have a low rank it doesn’t mean we have a problem,” he said. “It could be a result of rural health care.”