Delays in diagnosis or treatment within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system resulted in 19 patient deaths and 63 injuries nationwide, according to documents obtained by CNN and The Tampa Tribune.
The documents, which do not identify individual VA hospitals or patient names, involved patients suffering from gastro-intestinal malignancies between October 2009 and September 2011. Delays of endoscopy tests — less than a year but more than 90 days — were what led to the deaths and injuries, according to the documents.
National Journal has more:
10 of the 19 died in South Carolina or Georgia, while five died in VA facilities in Florida. Another 14 veterans or their family members in Florida were told that a delay in or not receiving a diagnosis or treatment had caused “adverse events,” according to the documents.
But it’s unclear if anyone involved at the VA has been reprimanded, demoted, or fired for the delays.
“We have redesigned the consult process to better monitor consult timeliness,” Mary Kay Hollingsworth, communications manager for the VA’s Sunshine Healthcare Network, told the Tribune. “We take any issue of this nature extremely seriously and offer our sincerest condolences to families and individuals who have been affected and lost a loved one.”
This isn’t a first for VA. A CNN investigation in November confirmed at least six veterans who died while waiting for simple colonoscopy or endoscopy tests.
VA undersecretary of health Dr. Robert Petzel issued a written statement to CNN following its investigation:
“As a result of the consult delay issue VA discovered at two of our medical centres, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) conducted a national review of consults across the system,” Petzel wrote. “We have redesigned the consult process to better monitor consult timeliness. We continue to take action to strengthen oversight mechanisms and prevent a similar delay at another VA medical center. We take any issue of this nature extremely seriously and offer our sincerest condolences to families and individuals who have been affected and lost a loved one.”
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