Director: Minneapolis VA expanding services for veterans

By Pat Kelly

2023 at the Minneapolis VA was a busy, successful year with many new changes and initiatives.

We focused on returning to many of our pre-COVID initiatives and to continually improving the amount and quality of services provided in our health care system.

By almost any measure, the Minneapolis VA provides high quality care. We measure this by a variety of means including surveys and inspections, visits by veteran service organization leaders and direct feedback from veterans on their experience, satisfaction and trust.

Pat Kelly

The VA nationwide is committed to being a “high reliability organization,” or HRO. Our goal is zero harm in delivering patient care services.

In addition to tiered huddles to improve communication, leadership rounding, safety forums and other efforts, this year we introduced our High Reliability Leadership Academy. At the academy, we teach leaders how to create a psychologically safe environment, practice difficult conversations and to self-reflect on one’s core motivations, while applying their strengths to enhance team performance and veterans care.

We continue to connect veterans to the soonest and best care. In 2023 we provided 100,000 unique veterans and 920,000 outpatient visits between the Medical Center, 13 Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) and our Community Resource and Referral Center.

This year we extended several specialty medicine services as well as building expansions in St. James, Mankato (Lyle C. Pearson Clinic) and Maplewood, providing more services to veterans in these communities.

While hospital-wide masking due to the COVID-19 pandemic subsided this year, staff are still exercising necessary precautions. Our COVID response is not over. As 2023 came to a close, respiratory illnesses were again on the rise. We encouraged all patients and staff to get vaccinated for the flu, COVID and RSV, making it easy by offering vaccinations at our clinics and the Medical Center.

We opened a new Specialty Care Building at the Medical Center in August. This centralized several specialty medicine services in one location and opened a ward in the Medical Center to begin conversion to more single-bed inpatient rooms.

In October we were approved for over $6 million in funding to start the Rehabilitation & Engineering Center for Optimizing Veteran Engagement & Reintegration (RECOVER). This new center is aimed at improving community participation of veterans with amputations and spinal cord injuries. RECOVER is about recovery after injuries, but also maintaining a healthy and fulfilling life as veterans age.

In 2024 we will focus on rural care by extending specialty care throughout more CBOCs. We anticipate the groundbreaking for our Women’s Clinic here on the Minneapolis campus later in 2024. This will provide a dedicated building to deliver most women veteran services and will be separate from but connected to the main Medical Center.

We will continue to champion the services of the COMPACT Act, serving all veterans in acute suicidal crisis and promoting the PACT Act, ensuring all qualifying veterans register to receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

It’s a privilege to serve Minnesota and western Wisconsin veterans. We very much appreciate our partnerships with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran service organizations, county veteran service officers and a host of other services and organizations that share our compassion and commitment to improving the lives of veterans.

Pat Kelly is the director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. He is a member of St. Paul 3M Post 599.