HealthcarePapers 5(4) May 2005 : 60-64.doi:10.12927/hcpap..17388

The Transformation Experience of the Veterans Health Administration and Its Relevance to Canada

Cathy Fooks and Michael Decter


Over the past few years, there has been a steady stream of visitors to Canada from the US Veterans Health Administration (VA). Led by the former Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Ken Kizer, they come to tell the remarkable story of how the VA transformed itself from a hospital-based bureaucracy described as "dangerous, dirty and scandal- ridden" to a healthcare system for veterans recognized for its high-quality, patient-centred care. It is a fascinating story of how a publicly funded healthcare service changed its entire approach to patient care with a quality improvement lens at its core. Fifteen years ago, critics of the VA called for its complete privatization as the only solution to fixing its problems. A team of quality champions set out to prove otherwise. Canada has some lessons to learn. The VA is a compelling role model for Canadian reformers, in large measure, due to its public sector character.



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