-- Margaret Farley Steele
TUESDAY, Aug. 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Investigators with
the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department say there's no evidence that
any deaths at a Phoenix VA hospital -- the center of a nationwide
scandal -- were caused by delays in care.
A draft report from the VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG)
doesn't dispute that there were serious scheduling problems. But
the investigators couldn't determine that those lapses in care led
to the deaths of scores of patients, which a retired VA doctor had
alleged, according to the
"It is important to note that while OIG's case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality-of-care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these veterans," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a memorandum about the report, the APreported.
Last spring, Dr. Samuel Foote, a long-time VA doctor, told
Congress that as many as 40 deaths were related to unacceptable
scheduling problems that VA employees had concealed. Foote retired
As a result of the allegations, former VA Secretary Eric
Shinseki resigned. Subsequently, Congress allocated an extra $16
billion to help remedy some of the problems that had surfaced
throughout the VA's national system.
According to the
AP, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson confirmed the draft
report findings and said delays in care are still commonplace.
"They looked to see if there was any causal relationship associated
with the delay in care and the death of these veterans and they
were unable to find one. But from my perspective, that don't make
it OK," Gibson said.
"Veterans were waiting too long for care and there were things being done, there were scheduling improprieties happening at Phoenix and frankly at other locations as well. Those are unacceptable," Gibson added.
Foote charged that VA employees had falsified data to make it
appear that waiting times were reduced in the absence of any
When the Inspector General's office investigated the matter, it
found 1,700 veterans waiting for primary care appointments at the
Phoenix VA whose names weren't on the waiting list. Gibson said
appointments have since been made for those 1,700 veterans.
However, another 1,800 veterans in Phoenix who've sought
appointments won't be seen for at least 90 days, he said, according
Gibson said the VA is taking action to improve staffing and
health care nationwide, sending more veterans to private doctors
and firing personnel involved in administrative blunders and
For veterans who can't get in to see a doctor at VA hospitals,
Congress has allocated $10 billion over three years for private
medical care. Legislators also approved $5 billion to hire more VA
health care providers and $1.3 billion to set up 27 new VA clinics
nationwide, the news report said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on
health issues faced by veterans.
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