VA Promises Better Care

Durbin said a plan is in place to address problems at the facility that saw nine deaths in 2007 caused by what he termed "substandard care." More recently, the center was the subject of a report critical of quality care management and patient safety.

"After two years and nine deaths due to substandard care, problems at the Marion VA still exist," Durbin said. "To deal with this, General (Eric) Shinseki (Secretary of Veterans Affairs) has made a change in leadership at Marion and called in a quality management team to immediately assess the medical center from top to bottom. He assured us that this is a priority.

"When we promise our veterans we will stand behind them when they come home, we must stand behind them with the very best medical care. We owe it to veterans and their families in Marion to correct the problems at the VA Medical Center as quickly as possible."

New assessment

The plan includes an assessment conducted by a high-level quality management team. The on-site assessment will be used to develop long-term strategies to ensure quality care at the facility.

The team will provide a report with recommended actions to lawmakers and VA officials, Costello said.

Lawmakers will also pursue legislation that will tighten the process for hiring doctors, introduce a new quality assurance mechanism and attract more quality medical professionals to the VA.

Lawmakers praised staff at the hospital but also encouraged those who work at the facility to speak out, without fear of reprisal, on issues and concerns they have.

Durbin said a report on planned actions will be delivered by mid-December.

Some doubt

While lawmakers assured the public the center would make the necessary changes, not everyone is filled with such hope.

Several veterans stood outside the facility while lawmakers were on the Marion campus, hoping to get a chance to voice their opinions on patient care.

"Looks like they're not going to let us anywhere near them," Vietnam veteran Carl M. Young said.

Young said while he was satisfied with the majority of the care he received at the center, he has problems with certain staff members and their apparent lack of respect and interest in treating veterans.

After watching from the sidelines of the lawmakers' news conference, Young said he has little hope the center's problems could be resolved without patient input.

"It's a show. That's exactly what that was - a show," he said. "Why don't they talk to the veterans?"

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