The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains a national system responsible for the healthcare services of military veterans. The system is divided into 23 Integrated Service Networks across the country with over 1,200 medical facilities that serve approximately 9 million. A report surfaced recently of a VA hospital hiring a physician with a track record of over 12 cases of medical malpractice and at least one led to a patient death.
Other reported hires included a doctor considered to be a potentially dangerous felon and another that is a sexual predator. Meanwhile, the Government Office of Accountability (GAO) says that patient complaints have gone unanswered recently. The GAO seems to notice a pattern of low-quality care and other missteps.
Improper Monitoring & Review
In response to patient complaints, medical center administrators were supposed to investigate the performance of 112 physicians; however, their auditing report suggests that 21 of those did not occur and another 26 lacked documentation of completion. The fear is that administrators are acting in a negligent manner by ignoring incidents of medical malpractice. A USA Today report showed that employees had committed roughly 126 offenses that warranted employment termination.
Many doctors and nurses found to have committed severe offenses were asked to resign and some were given “secret” settlements upon leaving. In about 75% of such settlements employee records showed no mention of the violations and often the employees were given recommendations to assist in securing other employment.
Dr. Thomas Franchini, a podiatrist assigned to a VA hospital in Maine, was found to have made mistakes in about 88 procedures. In one instance, he inadvertently severed a tendon, and in another, a patient's ankle was not properly fused, which led to an amputation. Rather than simply terminate the doctor, the VA allegedly asked him to resign and he transitioned to private practice.
In December 2017, USA Today reported the following relating to one of their neurosurgeons, John Henry Schneider:
- He was recruited and hired despite having his medical license revoked in Wyoming
- In hiring him, they overlooked multiple claims and settlements for malpractice—he had a medical license in Montana
- Conducted four brain surgery procedures in a four-week period on a veteran who died from an infection weeks later
- A veteran endured three surgeries involving his spine, yet one month later the wounds remained unhealed
- After the report became publicized Schneider abruptly resigned
Veteran Face Wait Times
Bill Nutter, a veteran of the Vietnam War, recently died in a Massachusetts VA facility after a nursing aide failed to check on him—she was found to be playing video games during work. The VA has a goal of having patients seen for appointments within 14 days, but new patients are waiting over three weeks for primary care visits. VA Secretary David Shulkin says delays may rise in 2018. In recent years the VA has had employees who admitted to manipulating wait times to make them appear shorter.