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VA hospitals across the country have more than 3,000 unwanted jobs

The Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

MIAMI VA HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — Thousands of jobs at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country remain vacant because VA leaders contend they can’t find qualified candidates who want them, an agency report released Thursday revealed.

Directors for 140 VA hospitals reported a total of 3,068 staff vacancies that they are struggling to fill because of a severe shortage of candidates, according to an annual VA Office of Inspector General report on staffing problems.

For the first time, the report included a breakdown of shortages for each hospital. However, the numbers don’t include all vacancies, but rather the ones the hospitals can’t fill.

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A lack of qualified candidates is not the only reason that VA directors can’t fill some of their open positions. Most of the hospitals also reported they are unable to offer competitive salaries.

Undesirable hours and inflexible schedules were listed as other challenges. High turnover was a problem for about half of the hospitals.

“[One] facility stated that when a position had high turnover, it resulted in significant overtime, which resulted in even more turnover,” the report reads.

The Atlanta VA Health Care System in Decatur, Ga., reported the most shortages – 89, of which 76 are medical providers. The hospital with the fewest shortages was the West Haven, Conn., campus of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, which reported only one job opening for a dermatologist.

Mental health providers topped the list for the most-needed occupation. Of the 140 hospitals, 98 reported a shortage of psychiatrists and 58 hospitals needed more psychologists. Other in-demand jobs included primary care doctors, human resources staff and police.

Congress passed legislation in August last year requiring the IG to report the shortages for each hospital. Each facility director provided the number of shortages as of the beginning of 2018.

“There’s no question VA needs to look at its hiring and retention programs nationwide, which is exactly why the committee required this OIG report,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

VA Inspector General Michael Missal said the new data could help inform the VA about how to recruit for its hardest-to-fill jobs.

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“This report should prompt meaningful discussions at both the local and national level about how to implement, support, and oversee staffing in VA medical centers that will result in the highest possible quality of veteran care,” Missal said in a prepared statement.

Carolyn Clancy, the executive in charge of VA health care, wrote in a response that the IG report was “very informative” and would support the agency’s staffing plans. She also said the VA was working to create a permanent “manpower office” by May 2019.

The VA has made the hiring of mental health professionals an area of focus, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Friday. The VA has hired 467 new mental health providers so far this year, and it’s aiming for a net increase of 1,000 providers by 2019, he said.

The VA attempted to hire 1,000 new mental health providers in 2017. The agency hired 900 but lost 945, for an overall decrease.

According to the IG report, the Cincinnati VA Medical Center in Ohio and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston had some of the fewest shortages, with each reporting only four jobs that they were struggling to fill.

Second to Decatur, the VA Illiana Health Care System in Danville, Ill., reported the most – 83 shortages, 66 of which were medical professions. The Oklahoma City VA Health Care System reported 69.

“Appropriate staffing allows a medical facility to function at its full potential,” IG official Nathan McClafferty said in a statement. “It is critically important that VA medical facilities are properly staffed to ensure veterans are provided the best possible health care.”

A House subcommittee is meeting June 21 to discuss the IG report and VA job vacancies in general. The hearing is titled, “More than just filling vacancies: A closer look at VA hiring authorities, recruiting and retention.”

“Clinician and other medical facility staff shortages are not unique to VA, but the committee is continuing to look for opportunities to improve the department’s hiring and retention programs,” Roe said.

The VA is the second-largest federal agency, with more than 360,000 employees. As of early March, there were 33,642 job vacancies across the VA, including open positions in the health care system, benefits offices and the National Cemetery Administration.

wentling.nikki@stripes.com
Twitter: @nikkiwentling
 

Facility State Clinical Shortages Nonclinical Shortages Total Number of Positions
Augusta ME 9 2 11
White River Junction VT 10 5 15
Bedford MA 3 4 7
JamaicaPlain MA 12 7 19
Manchester NH 9 2 11
Leeds MA 4 2 6
Providence RI 20 11 31
West Haven CT 1 NA 1
Bronx NY 12 9 21
Buffalo NY 21 4 25
Canandaigua NY 12 5 17
Bath NY 15 5 20
Syracuse NY 9 4 13
Albany NY 12 3 15
East Orange NJ 29 8 37
Montrose NY 7 9 16
NewYork NY 23 9 32
Northport NY 8 4 12
Wilmington DE 8 NA 8
Altoona PA 11 4 15
Butler PA 5 NA 5
Coatesville PA 5 3 8
Erie PA 7 4 11
Lebanon PA 11 3 14
Philadelphia PA 5 5 10
Pittsburgh PA 41 14 55
Wilkes-Barre PA 6 NA 6
Baltimore MD 41 16 57
Beckley WV 12 1 13
Clarksburg WV 12 1 13
Huntington WV 12 2 14
Martinsburg WV 10 4 14
Washington DC 4 3 7
Durham NC 45 6 51
Fayetteville NC 34 9 43
Hampton VA 10 8 18
Asheville NC 6 4 10
Richmond VA 44 9 53
Salem VA 10 2 12
Salisbury NC 13 7 20
Decatur GA 76 13 89
Augusta GA 6 4 10
Birmingham AL 11 1 12
Charleston SC 16 5 21
Columbia SC 16 2 18
Dublin GA 25 10 35
Montgomery AL 11 NA 11
Tuscaloosa AL 6 2 8
Bay Pines FL 4 14 18
Miami FL 14 1 15
WestPalmBeach FL 13 8 21
Gainesville FL 13 7 20
SanJuan PR 14 1 15
Tampa FL 7 4 11
Orlando FL 9 5 14
Lexington KY 10 3 13
Louisville KY 5 5 10
Memphis TN 17 5 22
Mountain Home TN 34 7 41
Nashville TN 17 7 24
Ann Arbor MI 5 6 11
Battle Creek MI 5 NA 5
Chillicothe OH 7 1 8
Cincinnati OH 2 2 4
Cleveland OH 7 4 11
Dayton OH 31 5 36
Detroit MI 54 3 57
Indianapolis IN 9 5 14
FortWayne IN 9 NA 9
Saginaw MI 14 1 15
Columbus OH 16 NA 16
Chicago IL 8 2 10
Danville IL 66 17 83
NorthChicago IL 6 2 8
Hines IL 9 3 12
IronMountain MI 9 NA 9
Madison WI 8 5 13
Tomah WI 6 NA 6
Milwaukee WI 5 5 10
KansasCity MO 19 5 24
Columbia MO 34 5 39
Leavenworth KS 14 10 24
Wichita KS 20 2 22
StLouis MO 9 5 14
PoplarBluff MO 10 3 13
Marion IL 35 10 45
Pineville LA 35 8 43
Biloxi MS 12 2 14
Fayetteville AR 51 6 57
Houston TX 4 NA 4
Jackson MS 34 9 43
LittleRock AR 16 5 21
NewOrleans LA 2 9 11
Shreveport LA 14 5 19
WestAmarillo TX 17 1 18
BigSpring TX 13 6 19
Dallas TX 7 4 11
SanAntonio TX 7 5 12
Temple TX 21 4 25
Harlingen TX 11 4 15
ElPaso TX 45 NA 45
FortHarrison MT 24 7 31
Cheyenne WY 21 4 25
Denver CO 19 3 22
GrandJunction CO 18 5 23
Muskogee OK 17 9 26
OklahomaCity OK 62 7 69
SaltLakeCity UT 8 7 15
Sheridan WY 9 1 10
Anchorage AK 21 19 40
Boise ID 5 5 10
Portland OR 38 9 47
Roseburg OR 20 12 32
Seattle WA 50 12 62
Spokane WA 40 4 44
WallaWalla WA 6 1 7
WhiteCity OR 13 2 15
Honolulu HI 42 3 45
Fresno CA 12 NA 12
LasVegas NV 16 1 17
Mather CA 9 8 17
PaloAlto CA 32 26 58
Reno NV 33 5 38
SanFrancisco CA 6 4 10
Albuquerque NM 14 6 20
LongBeach CA 3 4 7
LomaLinda CA 11 6 17
Phoenix AZ 8 5 13
Prescott AZ 5 1 6
SanDiego CA 19 5 24
Tucson AZ 7 1 8
LosAngeles CA 13 21 34
Fargo ND 20 7 27
SiouxFalls SD 8 3 11
FortMeade SD 13 1 14
Minneapolis MN 28 5 33
Omaha NE 12 6 18
DesMoines IA 38 8 46
IowaCity IA 22 5 27
StCloud MN 14 5 19

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