Probe Finds That Frequent Delays At VA Hospitals Resulted In Patient Deaths
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) December 6, 2013 – Delays at VA hospitals have resulted in late-stage diagnosis and sometimes death.
According to the findings of an investigation that were made public on November 20, The Department of Veterans’ Affairs was aware of the long waits and delays in care that resulted in the deaths of at least six veterans at one VA hospital in South Carolina — and did little or nothing to prevent them.
The probe also suggests that the number of deaths linked to delays at the hospital may be as many as 20, and that delayed care is not limited to the Columbia, S.C., facility but can be found in other VA hospitals as well.
The William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in South Carolina’s state capital sits at the epicenter of a widespread culture of delays in diagnosis and treatment that, in the case of Dorn, has led to unnecessary death. And the problem of delayed care within the VA system of hospitals has often involved (but has by no means been limited to) routine diagnostic tests such as colonoscopies that can identify and permit the removal of pre-cancerous polyps.
The DVA has been monitoring the problems at Dorn and other VA hospitals — including facilities in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas — for quite some time, having issued a memorandum with the results of an investigation on March 25. The office of the inspector general of the DVA also issued a report on September 13, which affirmed details about the delays at Dorn and stated bluntly that 700 of the delays were “critical.”
Some of the more severe delays at Dorn include the following examples:
* One veteran had to wait nine months for a colonoscopy, which was termed “a significant delay” in VA records. Ultimately, he underwent surgery when the cancer was diagnosed at stage 3.
* Another veteran who was deemed a possible candidate for disease of the esophagus waited four months for an appointment and another 11 months for an endoscopy, which revealed that he had later-stage esophageal cancer.
With the rising number of delays in care at Dorn a poorly kept secret — by December 2011 there was a backlog of 3,800 patients — Congress got involved and threw the hospital a $1 million financial lifeline in September 2011 in order to resolve its problems. But only one-third of funds were used to relieve patient waiting lists.
The VA will say, “We redirected those dollars to go somewhere it was needed,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Where would it be more needed than to prevent the deaths of veterans?”
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