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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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STVHCS Hemodialysis wins National quality award

A woman wrapped in blankets laying down and receiving a dialysis treatment

The South Texas dialysis clinic at the Audie L. Murphy hospital recently received the Department of Veterans Affairs Performance Award by substantially exceeding performance requirements. Although arriving a bit battered, and in October, the recognition was first discovered in California, when a nephrologist at a conference overheard that South Texas had taken home honors.

By Steven Goetsch
Friday, December 11, 2015

The South Texas dialysis clinic at the Audie L. Murphy hospital recently received the Department of Veterans Affairs Performance Award by substantially exceeding performance requirements. Although arriving a bit battered, and in October, the recognition was first discovered in California, when a nephrologist at a conference overheard that South Texas had taken home honors.

The award comes from performance and operational data, which covers everything from the number of patients, to the numbers of infections in the dialysis unit.

South Texas Dialysis Nurse Manager, Darlene Verkaik, said they work with patients to get them away from catheters, which is one of the biggest sources of infection.

"One of the categories we were recognized for was catheters," Verkaik said. "They want less than 10 percent, but we beat that. We are always around 4 to 6 percent."

The emphasis to reduce the number of catheters has paid off. Verkaik proudly said that is what has led to their 100 percent infection-free status."

That level of care and attention to detail is absolutely critical for an operation utilized as much as the dialysis clinic. Verkaik said the only day they are not operating is on Sunday, and she could easily add a third shift on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to match their other three operating days, but she just doesn't have the resources at this time.

"There are really big numbers for dialysis necessity," explained Verkaik. Who also said South Texas has another 200 Veterans at offsite dialysis clinics. “The patients in the community are located in San Antonio and choose to go to clinics in their neighborhood, some rural as well, and we have a waiting list for those who want to come here,” she added.  

The award, and low infection rates are all positives, but that is not what brings Army Veteran and patient Patricia Rinehardt to Audie Murphy. "The doctors give you all this information and leave you somewhat dazed," said Murphy. "You need those straight answers and the nurses help you with that, they are really nice...you couldn't ask for better quality.”

The dialysis unit epitomizes the patient-centered care model. They provide the type of service that Verkaik says sets the VA apart from off-campus centers.

"We do a lot of customer service things that you would not get from an outside dialysis clinic," Verkaik explained. "They receive warm blankets, individual high protein snacks and the staff has played Phosphorous bingo with patient prizes donated by Volunteer Services. The games also provide patient education,” Verkaik added.

Although snuggled up in her blanket while undergoing her four hour treatment, Rinehardt's reason for coming to Audie Murphy for dialysis runs much deeper.

“Each one of the people here has tended to me, and the concern that they show after I just got out of the hospital," Rinehardt explained. "They contacted the doctor, [at a non-VA hospital], and checked on me, and then came and visited me, so it's genuine concern on their part."

Rinehardt said both her and her sister, who is a 20-year Army Veteran and also receives treatment at the South Texas VA, gets treated well by the entire Audie L. Murphy team. “Even the housekeeping staff stops by to visit me,” Rinehardt explained. “I don’t know what I’d do if they sent me away from here, they have saved me twice so far.”

Verkaik scoured the data from other periods and is surprised their safety consistency has not resulted in other awards for the unit of two dozen or so nurses, techs and physicians. Regardless, the team will keep providing top-notch service so Veterans like Patricia Rinehardt are comfortable and safe.

"The concern they show for my sister and me, you can't beat that,” Rinehardt exclaimed. “They care for Veterans."

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