It has been almost two years since whistleblowers outed the VA hospital for falsifying patient records. The Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona was changing records to hide the fact that patients were waiting much longer than reported before receiving medical care. The VA kept separate documents so that they could report they were in compliance with government requirements to see patients within a certain amount of time. Now, a new report has found that more than 200 veterans died while waiting to be seen at the Phoenix VA.
Two years after the initial scandal broke, a report was recently released by the VA Inspector General's Office (OIG) which found that 215 veteran patients had open consultation appointments at the hospital on the day they died. According to the report, one of the patients was never given an appointment for a cardiology exam which could have prevented his death.
The report has found that “staff had not scheduled patients' appointments in a timely manner (or had not rescheduled canceled appointments), a clinic could not find lab results, and staff did not properly link completed appointment notes to the corresponding consults.” At the time of the investigation, the hospital had more than 38,000 patients waiting for consults. Patients who sought vascular care were waiting in excess of 300 days. One patient received his vascular care surgery in October 2015, after the recommendation for treatment was made in June 2013.
The 47-page report found numerous problems with the facility, and the way the way the hospital continues to be run. One of the complaints detailed a 58-year-old veteran who arrived at the hospital complaining of chest pain. He said it got worse with physical activity. A doctor ordered a stress test from the Cardiology Outpatient Department, telling the patient that the examination should take about a week.
More than a month later, the man was found dead in his home, having never received his cardiology appointment. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. “Timely testing may have indicated that the patient had significant disease and could have prompted further definitive testing and interventions that could have forestalled his death,” the report stated.
The facility also had a habit of firing employees who reported problems at the hospital. One scheduler tried to warn supervisors of the problems with how the facility handled appointments in the surgical department. The scheduler was shortly removed from their position.
US House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Jeff Miller has said the “VA's performance in Phoenix and across the land will never improve until there are consequences up and down the chain of command for these and other persistent failures.”
If you or a loved one was injured by a medical mistake, you may have a claim against the negligent hospital for damages. A medical malpractice claim may allow you to recover monetary damages for your medical bills, pain, and suffering. At Gilman & Bedigian we have been fighting for medical malpractice victims for decades, with a focus on getting you the compensation you deserve, so you can get better and move forward with your life.