Milwaukee VA Medical Center subject of federal report

Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 01:39:00-04

It's where veterans go to focus on their health and well-being, but accusations say the mental health inpatient unit at Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center was not "safe and secure." The accusations date back to 2015.

Last year investigators from the Federal Veterans Affairs office of Inspector General began looking into reports they received from Senators.

"Safety is the most important thing that we do here," said Medical Center Director and CEO Daniel Zomchek. Zomchek started his time at the hospital in June, after the allegations. He tells the I-Team he learned of the issues as he started.

According to the report from the OIG, the facility wasn't checking for contraband, didn't have enough staff- which included lacking a psychiatrist on the mental health unit. The report says staff members were recording rounds on patients they never completed. In August 2016 investigators write they were let into the mental health unit, but never asked who they were.

"That was my 'holy cow' moment," said Zomchek. "We needed to make sure that we take care of the safety and security of that building."

Now, Zomchek said the hospital has made all the suggested improvements and more.

"We had to hire a 24/7 security guard at the front gate to make sure people were checking their pockets," he said. "We had to lock the windows, we decided to put screech alarms on the external doors. we installed over 70 additional cameras." Zomchek said the facility has new managers, and seven new staff members visible to patients. He also has a full-time psychiatrist in the building.

The improvements cost over a million dollars. In addition to those, Zomchek tells us he brought in external reviewers to evaluate where even more changes can be made.