Under the Dome

From one ex-businessman to another, Tillis writes VA secretary with some advice

North Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis wrote to VA Secretary Robert McDonald on Thursday with some preliminary recommendations about how to use good business practices to improve the health care veterans receive.

“You and I both come from the private sector,” Tillis wrote. “We have run complex organizations that constantly required an infusion of new ideas and practices to make the enterprise viable.”

The letter noted that McDonald had asked Tillis for ideas about how to improve the agency’s business practices.

McDonald, an Army veteran, was chairman, president and CEO of The Proctor & Gamble Co. before the Senate confirmed him as VA secretary last July. His official bio on the VA website says that under his leadership P&G added customers and increased sales, and that its stock price went up. P&G owns Tide, Crest, Gillette, Duracell and other household brands.

Tillis was an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM. His official bio says that his “22-year private sector career in technology and management consulting has provided him with a deep understanding of policy-making and the management of complex organizations.”

Tillis, in a press release, said he based his recommendations on his work as a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, visits to VA facilities in North Carolina, comments from veterans and VA staff, a review of the testimony and research of Duke Hospital’s Office of Veterans Affairs and “his decades of experience in the private sector consulting complex and bureaucratic organizations.”

A news release summarized his recommendations:

▪ Overhaul unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.

▪ Keep VA clinics open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of closing at 4 or 4:30.

▪ Address recruiting and retention of physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

▪ Get new health care providers into the VA system faster with a new credentialing system.

▪ Explore the expanded use of urgent-care clinics.

▪ Expand “the use of sharing agreements with academic partners like UNC, Duke, East Carolina and Campbell that will include sharing of excess academic resources with the VA at a fair market value.”

▪ Encourage VA providers to use private facilities when it’s cost-effective.

▪ And improve staff morale by allowing health-care providers take leave when “they have an issue with a child in school or have to address other family or personal issues.”

“Your tenure at the VA is a breath of fresh air and I appreciate everything that you are doing to help those who have borne the battle,” Tillis’ letter concluded. “I stand ready to help and please take my cursory look at ways to address the department's concerns as a step in helping you with the vital position you hold.”