IG probes uncover more problems at VA hospitals

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Three new reports were released this week demonstrating deficiencies at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.

The VA Office of Inspector General (IG) released separate reports on clinics in Alaska, Illinois and California showing protracted delays and mismanagement at the hospitals dedicated to providing care for veterans.

{mosads}The evaluations, first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, come days after Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton said the scandal about wait times at the VA is not as “widespread” of a problem as coverage would indicate.

The first evaluation, conducted at a clinic in Los Angeles and released on Wednesday, found that a patient, who later died, “experienced a delay in obtaining a surgical consult to address his complaints of dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).”

The patient, a male veteran in his 70s, had complained of “severe dysphagia” in February 2011 and died a week before he was scheduled to have a surgical consultation to place a feeding tube. The appointment to arrange the surgery was scheduled in July 2012.

An autopsy was not performed at the time and the IG could not determine the patient’s cause of death. He had dropped from 130 pounds in June of 2011 to 118 pounds in January of 2012.

The report also said the Los Angeles facility had “significant numbers of neurology consults open longer than 90 days,” which the clinic blamed on a failure to “close consults properly after patients had been seen.”

It found 548 neurology consults had been open for more than 30 days, nearly half of which were open for more than 90 days, and nearly two dozen surgical consults that were open for more than 90 days.

The second report, released on Thursday and evaluating a clinic in Marion, Ill., found that nearly all of the independent practitioners reviewed did not have the necessary skills and training to perform their jobs.

It also said the facility did not have a “defined plan or policy to have a qualified surgeon available 24/7 on all within 60 minutes.”

The third evaluation, released on Thursday and assessing a clinic in Anchorage, Alaska, found that clean and dirty items were stored together 75 percent of the time in patient care areas.

The facility also failed to correct four deficiencies in physical security at facility pharmacies that were identified at least two years ago, and inspectors did not consistently complete pharmacy inspections.

Eighty percent of the clinicians at the Alaska facility were not qualified in suicide-prevention training, and 30 percent of patients assessed to be at high risk of suicide did not have documented safety plans in their health records.

An IG report last year sparked national outrage when it found as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for treatment at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.

Clinton said the scandal has “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be” on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” last week. The Clinton campaign said the comments were taken out of context.

Republicans and veterans groups have criticized the former first lady’s comments and called on her to apologize.

“The problems at the VA, despite what Mrs. Clinton and others in Congress seem to think, are deeply rooted, and will only be fixed when policymakers in Washington show the courage to take on entrenched bureaucrats and government unions on behalf of our veterans,” Concerned Veterans for America said in a statement on Friday.

-Updated at 12:15 p.m.

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