D.C. VA Hospital Poses Dangers to Veterans

VA Hospital

There are numerous below par conditions at a Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center that have prompted a scathing report from the VA’s Inspector General.

These conditions are so dangerous that the agency’s Inspector General issued a very rare preliminary report to alert patients and other members of the public.

Some of the findings by the Inspector General included:

  • The operating room ran out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and ultrasound probes used to map blood flow
  • A surgeon used expired equipment during a procedure
  • Chemical strips used to verify equipment sterilization had expired a month earlier, so tests performed on nearly 400 items were not reliable
  • Four prostate biopsies had to be canceled because there were no tools to extract the tissue sample
  • The hospital ran out of tubes needed for kidney dialysis, so staff had to go to a private-sector hospital and ask for some.
  • The facility had to borrow bone material for knee replacement surgeries
  • A tray used in repairing jaw fractures was removed from the hospital because of an outstanding invoice to a vendor

The director of the medical center has now temporarily been assigned to administrative duties, and a new acting director has been named.

It was further determined by the Inspector General that this VA hospital, which serves more than 98,000 veterans in the nation’s capital, lacks an effective inventory system.

Additionally, the report cautions that “there are numerous and critical open senior staff positions that will make prompt remediation of these issues very challenging”.

“Although our work is continuing, we believed it appropriate to publish this Interim Summary Report given the exigent nature of the issues we have preliminarily identified and the lack of confidence in VHA adequately and timely fixing the root causes of these issues,” VA Inspector General Michael Missal wrote.

New VA Secretary David Shulkin told the media earlier this week that he welcomes outside oversight with hopes it will help him fix the beleaguered agency.

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Senators Seek Quick Action on Stalled VA Projects


By Debbie Gregory.

A group of senators are urging quick action from the lame duck Congress on two dozen stalled VA projects.

The senators are calling for Congress to set aside funding for a list of health care centers, outpatient clinics and research facilities proposed throughout the Veterans Affairs system. The list includes three each in California and Florida, research facilities in Boston and Charleston, S.C., and a business office in Denver.

In South Hampton Roads, the proposed 155,200-square-foot facility is aimed at easing the workload at the Hampton VA Medical Center, where demand has skyrocketed. Patient visits in Hampton’s service area increased by 30.5 percent from 2011 to September 2014. The national average across the VA system was 8.6 percent during that time.

The Hampton Roads center would offer primary and specialty care, day surgery, an eye clinic, pharmacy and radiology services. Two similar centers are operating in North Carolina, another high-growth area for veterans care.

While Trump has talked about improving  veterans’ health care, it is unclear how these proposed projects would fare under his administration.

Supporters say a plan that leans more on private hospitals would give veterans additional choices. Critics fear it marks the first step toward privatization of veterans health care and abandonment of long-held promises for retired service members.

VA hospitals could concentrate on military-specific areas for which it has expertise, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Supporters say this would not lead to a dismantling of the VA health system. The federal government would still bear responsibility for veterans health care.

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Military Connection: VA Offering Relief to Whistleblowers

VA Whistle Blowers

By Debbie Gregory.

On January 20th, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will be offering “whistleblower” relief to over two dozen VA employees. The employees, who had been threatened with retaliation from their superiors, had filed complaints about wrongdoing at VA medical facilities and clinics throughout the country.

Last year, a settlement was reached with three VA employees who blew the whistle on issues concerning unacceptable appointment wait times and falsified waitlists at the Phoenix VA Hospital. These events prompted a national response from Congress, Veterans, and the general public, including legislative measures and the forced resignation of then-VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki. And the settlement has prompted the VA to offer relief to others.

The VA’s actions offer relief to approximately 25 VA employees who faced reprimands, poor evaluations or threats of repercussions after reporting errors and misconduct within the VA healthcare system.

Currently, more than 120 complaints of retaliation are under investigation throughout the VA’s 970 facilities nationwide, following employee allegations about improper patient scheduling, understaffing and other problems.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald had previously promised to eliminate retaliation against whistleblowers as the VA looks to change its image and its culture. The VA has a decades-long reputation for providing service to Veterans that is slower than private sector healthcare.

The VA is now being applauded for its willingness to change, taking steps to protect its employees who file whistleblower complaints, and implementing widespread changes in policy throughout the department.

The VA is committed to holding those who retaliated against the whistleblowers accountable.VA employees who blow the whistle on their superiors because they have identified a legitimate problem should not be punished, they should be protected. And in the opinion of Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, they should be praised.

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