The VA Medical Center that became the poster child for an out-of-control, corrupt, and failure-prone bureaucracy is still a mess. The Washington Times:
Two years after they first sounded the alarm about secret waiting lists leaving veterans struggling for care at the Phoenix VA, investigators said some services have improved, and cleared the clinic of allegations that top officials ordered staff to cancel appointments.
But confusion and bureaucratic bungling remain prevalent, long wait times are still a problem, and veterans are having appointments canceled for questionable reasons.
More than 200 veterans died while waiting for appointments, and investigators said at least one veteran would likely have been saved if the clinic had gone ahead with his consultation.
“This patient never received an appointment for a cardiology exam that could have prompted further definitive testing and interventions that could have forestalled his death,” the inspector general said.
The VA is still reeling from an initial 2014 report that found top executives cooked their books, canceling appointments and shifting others onto secret wait lists to try to make their backlogs appear less drastic, hoping to earn performance bonuses. The problems were first reported at the Phoenix VA, where dozens of veterans died while waiting for care, but investigators found similar secret wait lists and botched care at clinics across the country.
The Times is referring to a new report from the Office of Inspector General. The report does not seem to be on the OIG website yet, but there is this report about consults at Phoenix, with this little gem in the summary:
VHA does not require staff to complete prosthetics consults immediately. We substantiated that one patient waited in excess of 300 days for vascular care. A patient received vascular care in October 2015 following a consult request from a clinician in Vascular Surgery in June 2013.
And this bleak conclusion:
During the past two years, the OIG has reviewed a myriad of allegations at PVAHCS and issued six reports involving policy, access to care, scheduling and canceling of appointments, staffing, and consult management. Although VHA has made efforts to improve the care provided at PVAHCS, these issues remain.
No one has been held responsible, except for one heartless, greedy manager (who is suing for her job back).
In another case in Phoenix, the VA dallied so long over a cancer diagnosis that by the time they got around to it, the treatment was: hospice. The OIG thought they should at least get credit for making the hospice call correctly: that’s government service for you, participation-trophy tee-ball. No one has been held responsible.
In other recent OIG releases, the Fayetteville, NC VA played fast and loose with surgical protocols, but the OIG was not able to substantiate the charge that this led to patient deaths — because the VA never conducted the mandatory investigations of the deaths. No one has been held responsible.
And in Madison, Wisconsin, the VA blew $100k a year on a surgical device it can’t use, and sends patients to other facilities if they need; and blew $300k on two robots without checking to see if they’d work in the facility (they don’t). And the VA has so mismanaged the GI Bill that it’s blown half a billion, and is on track to blow $5 Billion in the next five years. And in Salisbury, NC, the backlog of radiology exams was 3,300, and 15 vets died waiting for the exams, but it wasn’t the lack of exams that kilt ’em, and the backlog is down to merely 1,500 or so, so it’s all good, right?
Is it time to disband this thing, yet?