By Howard Altman, The Tampa Tribune
As the military struggles to cope with an alarming suicide rate among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time is monitoring how its hospitals handle patients making the critical transition from hospitalization to living on their own.
The first published review in the country: Bay Pines VA Health Care System near St. Petersburg.
The results are eye-opening.
The VA's Office of Inspector General pulled the records of 20 discharged mental health patients at Bay Pines and found that the hospital failed to provide timely follow-up care to eight of those patients.
Inspectors also checked the records of 10 patients considered at high risk of suicide and found the hospital didn't provide follow-up care in a timely manner for three of those patients.
VA regulations require that all discharged patients receive follow-up contact within seven days of being discharged. If that contact is by phone, an in-person or remote health evaluation must take place in two weeks. High-risk patients must receive two outpatient follow-up evaluations within 14 days of discharge and two more within 15 to 30 days.
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