Oh, Hey, Looks Like Phoenix Veterans Hospital Delays Didn't Kill Anyone After All
Here is some news that, if not exactlygood, is at least less-bad-than-it-seemed: a VA Inspector General's investigation has found that while delays in treatment at the Phoenix V.A. hospital were real, and serious, there's also no proof that the delays led to any deaths. Reports earlier this year alleged that as many as 40 veteran may have died while waiting for treatment in Phoenix, and the backlog scandal forced Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
Details please, Associated Press/NPR:
The VA's Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months and shared a draft report of its findings with VA officials.
In a written memorandum about the report, VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald said, "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."
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson wisely elected to not do a little "YAY, at least we didn't KILL anybody!" victory dance about the report:
"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."
The delays, and that estimate of up to 40 possible deaths, had been brought before Congress in April by Dr. Samuel Foote, who explained that, in order to collect performance bonuses, Phoenix VA officials had faked reports to show that vets were being seen more quickly than they actually were. Even at the time, Foote cautioned that he wasn't claiming a causal relationship between the delays and the waiting time, noting that some with terminal illnesses would not have had a different outcome even if they'd gotten a timely appointment, although they would have at least gotten care.
The VA is taking several steps to fix the mess, including sending vets to private doctors if they can't be seen at VA facilities, hiring more doctors, nurses, and staff, and also arranging to shoot down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine to distract from the VA scandal.
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