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VA Hospitals Losing Equipment: Report


By Dan Hounsell Facilities Management
nurses with stretcher walking in hospital corridor

A vast array of technology applications have reshaped institutional and commercial facilities, and more are coming every day. Among the challenges for maintenance and engineering managers is ensuring new technology delivers the intended performance and benefits — a lesson the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is learning the hard way.

VA medical facilities in Ohio have lost more than $1 million in medical equipment and other electronics over the past three years. VA facilities in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Chillicothe lost track of equipment worth approximately $1.12 million between 2014 and 2017, according to an investigation by WBNS-TV.

Unfortunately, signal interference meant that the technology did not always function properly. The technology also wasn't always properly installed, or employees couldn't find certain items listed in the database. Federal inspectors at the VA Office of Inspector General testified recently that the department was in a rush to roll out the tracking technology in 2013 without thoroughly testing it first, according to the WBNS investigation.

Although most of the lost equipment includes smaller items such as iPads, cellphones, and laptops, some items include expensive medical equipment and instruments worth tens of thousands of dollars. Among these items were a portable patient lift worth $5,000, a patient sign-in kiosk worth $8,500, a stretcher worth $12,000 and a bedside monitor worth $28,000.

The VA employees either could not find the equipment or believed the items were sold or turned in. But no record or receipt could be produced to prove either.

In some instances, the Ohio facilities lost the equipment after the VA spent almost $24 million in the state on technology meant to install tracking devices on it. The real-time location systems is dependent on Wi-Fi, radio frequency identification tags and computer databases that allow employees to scan equipment to keep track of it or that send out its location in real-time.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and chief editor of Facilitiesnet.com.

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