Veterans Affairs Misses Deadline Amid SCANDAL At Virginia Medical Center

By Tommy Wilson | Monday, 27 May 2024 09:30 AM
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently under intense scrutiny for failing to meet a deadline set by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The committee had requested specific information regarding the Hampton VA Medical Center, following serious allegations of employee retaliation and substandard patient care.

The House Committee initiated an investigation after lawmakers met with medical professionals and whistleblowers from the medical center in March. The meeting was convened to discuss the quality of care provided at the facility, which had recently come under criticism. The committee, led by U.S. Rep. Jen Kiggans, requested documents on April 9 relating to disciplinary actions against employees, patient safety reports from the medical center’s surgical department, and policy language on the cleaning of exam and procedure rooms. The deadline for the provision of these documents was set for April 26.

However, as of May 16, the VA had not provided any of the requested information to the committee, according to Kiggans, a representative of Hampton Roads who also serves as the chairwoman of the committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee.

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“Every day these allegations go unaddressed is another day patients may be at risk,” Kiggans stated in a news release on Friday.

Kiggans and the committee have received credible complaints of employee retaliation, patient safety concerns, and medical incompetence originating from the Hampton Veterans Affairs facility and its surgical department. These allegations were brought forward by more than a dozen individuals, including patients and former and current employees at the medical center.

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The committee's investigation is currently examining whether the medical center's leaders are actively addressing the alleged issues at the facility, including those identified by two Office of the Inspector General reports, or if they are attempting to cover up these issues by retaliating against medical professionals who raise concerns.

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“The allegations surrounding Hampton VAMC are incredibly serious. They have created serious concerns that Hampton VAMC lacks the competent leadership needed to repair an imploding Surgical Services department,” lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

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In response to the committee’s letter, VA press secretary Terrence Hayes stated on Monday, “We have been investigating and taking steps to address concerns at the Hampton VA Medical Center since August of last year, including making multiple site visits to review and evaluate surgical services and instituting clinical care and peer reviews of the surgical care we offer. We continue to work closely and urgently to make sure we are delivering the world-class surgical care that local Veterans deserve, and we will not rest until any issues are addressed.”

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In June 2022, the Office of the Inspector General reported several failures at the Hampton VA Medical Center over a period of about two years that led to a delayed cancer diagnosis. Despite the delays, the report noted that “earlier diagnosis may not have impacted the patient’s outcome” due to the nature of the cancer.

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The Hampton VA Medical Center came under scrutiny again in September 2023 after the watchdog reported failures in care that delayed the diagnosis and treatment of a veteran who died of cancer.

In an Oct. 2 statement to The Virginian-Pilot, the Department of Veteran Affairs offered condolences to the veteran’s family, “both for their loss and for the unacceptable delays in care.” VA spokesperson Gary Kunich said the department was taking urgent steps to prevent delays from happening in the future and to ensure the delivery of high-quality and timely services to every veteran patient.

As of Monday, only two of the seven recommendations made by the inspector general’s office had been implemented at Hampton VA Medical Center, according to the department website.

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