Legislators and health regulators have expressed concern after more than 120 previously unpublished investigations by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were made available last month. According to a Military Times article, the investigations, which date back as far as 2006, expose numerous instances of medical malpractice and mismanagement at V.A. hospitals across the country.
The V.A. assistant inspector general has claimed that the reports were not concealed; he explained that investigations are routinely closed in the event that the facility under investigation takes steps to correct the problems pointed out, or if allegations made against the facility are not substantiated. But according to the Military Times article, legislators say a system that allows V.A. facilities to fix themselves after investigation by the inspector general makes no sense. Lawmakers have expressed concern over the V.A. department’s commitment to transparency.
“It is past time for the VA inspector general to be transparent and accountable and to show its work on its Tomah health care inspection,” senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said.
According to the article, 59 of the newly published reports include substantiated claims against V.A. hospitals and recommendations on how to address them. Cases range from minor misdiagnoses to major medical mistakes. In Florida, a patient who broke his leg at a V.A. hospital waited one week before the injury was finally recognized and treated; in Iowa, a V.A. doctor subjected patients to additional radiological exams without their consent; in Pennsylvania, a patient’s face was accidentally set on fire during surgery. Then there is the Tomah, WI whistleblower report, allegedly hidden by the V.A. inspector general initially, which reveals a high rate of prescriptions for high-dose opiates like morphine—such that the facility was sometimes referred to as “candy land,” and the prescribing doctor as “the candy man.”
According to the Military Times, both the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs have increased their supervision of the V.A. department and its inspector general office, and escalated legislative efforts to ensure the department remains transparent.
Malpractice and mismanagement issues at US hospitals contribute to over 400,000 deaths each year from medical errors. If you or someone you know believes they suffered a serious injury due to hospital mismanagement or medical mistake, contact the malpractice lawyers at Lopez McHugh for a free consultation.