An internal study (SAIL Modul) of VA facilities recently reduced the rating for Montana’s Ft. Harrison from a two-star facility down to a one-star facility. Unlike star ratings for hotels and restaurants though, the VA grades on a Bell Curve, meaning that there are always 12 facilities that receive the study’s highest rating of five and 12 that receive the lowest rating of one star.

Ft. Harrison Public Affairs Officer Mike Garcia says the study reflects conditions during last summer, which was a transitional time for the hospital after director John Ginnity posted his resignation in June.

“Many people who watch the VA in Montana closely might remember that last summer was a bit of a tumultuous time for us here in the state,” Garcia said. “So things like… Best Place to Work… RN Turnover… it wouldn’t be surprising that last summer some of those metrics would be lower.”

Garcia points out that the study is complex with 26 different metrics, some of which can seem contradictory. For the past four quarters Ft. Harrison has shown improvement when it comes to the category Veteran’s Experience of Care For Mental Health and yet by another metric it received a dismal rating.

“There’s one area where we’ve been among the lowest in the nation and that metric area is called Mental Health Continuity of Care, and that measures not only how fast we get a veteran in for mental health, but how we get the report back,” Garcia said. “But there’s kind of a unique challenge in Montana, because we are rural, we have about one-fifth of our veterans who receive mental health care doing it in the community.”

There is good news in the report, too. Patient satisfaction scores have improved at Fort Harrison. Also, the facility improved its hospital-wide re-admission rate: it is now ranked 33rd among VA hospitals for having a low re-admission, it was ranked 86th last year.

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