Fayetteville VA hospital director disputes suicide report
By Greg Barnes
The director of the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center took exception Tuesday with a federal audit that said the VA failed to follow up on patients released from the hospital who were considered a high suicide risk.
Under Veterans Health Administration regulations, the VA keeps a list of those patients and is supposed to follow up with them every week for a month.
In a sampling of 10 patients from the list, the audit found that the VA failed to check up on nine of the 10 after the second week.
"Is it a failure? I wouldn't call it a failure," VA Director Elizabeth Goolsby said.
But she added, "Anytime we don't give the complete scope of care bothers me."
She said steps have been taken to ensure that those services are always provided, including hiring a second suicide-prevention coordinator.
But Goolsby said the audit's sampling was not a good representation of the number of high-risk patients who were on the list in the last fiscal year.
She acknowledged that the list contained the names of 53 patients Tuesday, some of whom had been on it for months or even years. She said she could not recall how many patients were on the list when the audit was conducted by the federal VA's Office of Inspector General over a few days in September.
A report released Friday by the federal VA revealed that 80 percent of all suicide attempts among VA patients nationally occur within a month after a hospital visit.
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