VA chief orders monthly inspections of all clinics

 

The Veterans Affairs Department on Wednesday announced it would begin holding monthly inspections of scheduling practices at all of its medical facilities nationwide.

The reviews will include “observing daily scheduling processes and interacting with scheduling staff to ensure all policies are being followed,” according to an agency statement.

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“Our top priority is getting veterans off of wait lists and into clinics,” acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said. “We need our folks in the facilities to work directly with staff, answer all questions, and ensure our veterans receive the timely care they have earned.”

The move comes in the wake of a scandal over long wait times that led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

A White House-ordered audit of VA clinics and hospitals nationwide found that 13 percent of staffers said they had been told to falsify wait times so it appeared that more veterans were treated within a two-week target.

Roughly 8 percent claimed they used “alternatives” to the official scheduling system.

An interim report from the VA’s inspector general found that veterans at a facility in Phoenix have been made to wait an average of 115 days, while official data claimed wait times only averaged 24 days.

Gibson on Wednesday said the spot inspections would help restore trust in the agency.

“Veterans must trust their healthcare system, and these reviews are an important step towards restoring integrity in all our scheduling activities,” he said.

Gibson will visit a VA hospital in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Both the House and Senate have passed VA reform bills that would give the secretary expanded powers to fire poorly performing officials, provide more funds to hire doctors and nurses, and allow some veterans access to outside care.