Local Health Alert: New Director Looks to Create Better Culture and Customer Service for Memphis VA

     The Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center is getting some much needed stability with a new director. David K. Dunning took over in the spring, hitting the ground running. He's now releasing details about his 60 to 90-day assessment of the facility and plans to turn the hospital's low-grade rating, into top notch service.

     Dunning comes into the role straight from the military, with 30 years of service and two deployments behind him. He says after more than a year of interim directors, the hospital was in great need of leadership and counsel. "People were waiting for somebody to come here and take charge and say this is where we're going. This is what we need to do." He says creating stability is paramount, and one of his top priorities is changing the culture and offering better customer service. His appointment comes amid controversy at VA facilities across the country, facing scrutiny for claims of low quality care and long wait times. Memphis knows all to well the challenges, the hospital earned the lowest one out of five star rating, last year. New leadership is determined to turn that around, "If the veteran stops coming, you lose your job," says Dunning.

     The goals for the medical center going forward are in line with the top five priorities mapped out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: greater choice for veterans, modernize our systems, focus resources more efficiently, improve timeliness of services and suicide prevention. Dunning says he's pushing for enhanced primary care, strengthened care for mental health to cutback on the growing veteran suicide rate, and hospital and patient flow to help with emergency wait times. The hospital has just upgraded its emergency room, and has plans for an additional parking deck and new atrium entrance with streamlined services. "All the things the veteran needs on their initial assistance visit, will all be right there," explains Dunning.

     Quality care is also coming from new faces at the facility. Dunning there was a backlog of hundreds of hiring actions. He's brought on board 30 medical support assistants, already. "They're the ones that meet you at the front desk, they're the ones that answer the telephones, and they're the ones that book the appointments."

      While Dunning says he's working to instill pride from his employees in the center, "you don't want your people to believe they're a one star," the focus is on the veterans the hospital serves. "Going from a rules based organization to a values based." Dunning says that means working around their needs and requests. "When you say no or I can't, it's immediately followed with but, I can do this for you."


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